This week there’s a letter being sent to the heads at HTC from what reports claim is an anonymous defector from the company’s R&D department, this letter claiming that “more than a thousand” engineers have been asked to work 12 hour days without overtime on a regular basis. This system has been claimed by the anonymous letter-writer to have been called a “Responsibility System” and is having workers put in “1000 hours” of overtime work without overtime pay. While the letter has not yet been entirely authenticated beyond what Taiwanese publication MyDrivers claim, such claims will likely prompt a response from HTC rather rapidly.
According to MyDrivers, they’ve got word that “more than 5,000 internal engineers” are part of the Research and Development team that may be affected by this so-called “Responsibility System”. While the letter in question does appear to have been written and presented by a single disgruntled employee, it’s been claimed that “thousands” of engineers have been included in this demand for additional hours without overtime pay.
In January of this year it would appear that HTC Chairman Cher Wang was prompted to respond to allegations of “sweatshop” conditions, saying (translated): “every place has room to improve, but HTC’s workplace is based in an appreciation of each person at all times, with that appreciation applying to everyone, the company acting in that appreciation, not just in efforts to keep themselves prepared.” Note that that’s a rather rough translation, the original to be found at Sina Technological Age.
This newest incident appears to have once again created an environment in which the chairman is having to defend the company, saying this time that HTC has “always complied with the Labor Standards Act, except weekends and statutory holidays,” continuing on with notes that HTC “also encourages employees to make good use of annual leave and a good work-life balance.” The chairman spoke specifically about overtime, saying that “employees can still apply, but [overtime] is subject to the approval of the department head.”
As Unwired View‘s Staska notes, there was a bit of a surprising gap in costs for R&D between the third and fourth quarter of 2011, with HTC cutting costs by a whopping 60%. This announcement was included in Q4 earnings reports without word of any equivalent number of layoffs. Could it be that the costs were simply cut by having workers stay longer each night without equivalent overtime pay?
Stay tuned as more information on this situation comes to light – rather quickly, we must assume.