Telstra re-stocks shelves with phones from alleged sweatshop

Telco happy after week-long investigation into VTech


Aussie telecoms giant Telstra has decided to start selling equipment made by controversial Chinese manufacturer VTech again, barely a week after suspending sales in the wake of a report detailing serious labour and human rights violations.

The report, from not-for-profit the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, claimed employees at VTech’s Guangdong plants are forced to work in illegal sweatshop conditions.

It alleged workers are forced to stand all day, undertake excessive overtime, endure physical and verbal abuse and are paid below subsistence wages, among other things.

Telstra, whose fixed line phones are apparently all made by VTech, was one of the first big name brands to release a statement on the matter and was quick to nip a PR disaster in the bud by suspending sales while it investigated.

A short statement sent to The Reg today said the following:

We are satisfied with the outcomes of our investigation and we will resume sales of the handsets in our branded stores.

Needless to say, VTech chairman and CEO Allan Wong was pretty pleased with the decision, releasing the following canned statement:

We will continue to ensure that our humane management practices are fully implemented in our factories, and our employees are working in a safe and harmonious environment.

Given that the Fair Labor Association’s initial investigation into conditions at Foxconn factories took four times as long to complete, sceptics would be justified in thinking Telstra’s decision is primarily commercially motivated.

That said, The Reg is still awaiting an update from other big tech names involved in the scandal including Philips and Motorola about whether their own investigations have been concluded in a similarly swift manner.

El Reg spoke to several not-for-profits at the time and none seemed particularly surprised at the abuses detailed in the report.

Hong Kong-based rights group China Labour Bulletin, for example, told us that such conditions were common among electronics companies located along the Pearl River Delta. ®

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