June 1, 2012

Foxconn In Trouble Again

Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com

A Chinese activist group called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) are calling out the Chinese assembly plant Foxconn once more, saying despite their calls for change and the involvement of the Fair Labour Association, (FLA) conditions at the factories haven´t improved. Foxconn has been under fire lately for labor conditions, including working and living conditions, low pay and long hours. The factories are responsible for making hardware for companies such as Microsoft, Sony and Apple.

According to their website (translated link) the activist organization interviewed 170 employees at Foxconn in Shenzhen and Zhengzhou between March and May and found that the few improvements that were made were nominal at best. For instance, they found workers who once stood all day have now been provided a stool, though management has instructed them to only sit on one-third of the chair to “remain nimble.

“The frontline management continue to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers,” the report said.

The activist group also claim Foxconn employees aren´t aware of any changes the FLA has told the company to implement. SACOM also say they found more excessive and unpaid overtime as well with little attention paid to this matter by management.

The report tells the story of one woman who said her production expectations have increased 10 fold, leaving her exhausted at the end of the day. When the company does reduce the amount of overtime assigned to their employees, everyone´s paychecks get smaller, say SACOM.

The report goes on to say living conditions at Foxconn remain “cramped and unpleasant,” saying they found 20-30 people sharing 3-bedroom apartments.

Last month, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou defended his company from claims that Foxconn was nothing more than a modern day sweatshop to produce fancy, high-tech gadgets.

“What´s wrong with sweatshops?” said Gou to visiting Chinese workers in April, according to Reuters. “We toil hard with blood and sweat, so long as we don´t break any laws. I believe in reaping what you sow.”

The activists at SACOM were none too pleased with Gou´s apparent flippancy, saying they condemn Gou´s ignoring of the “naked exploitation of workers.”

Therefore, they “solemnly” demand that Foxconn make the following changes:

  1. Push and Promote fair trade unions inside Foxconn in accordance with democratic elections.
  2. Pay their employees a better, living wage.
  3. Take steps to improve the management system at Foxconn to ensure a safe work environment and protect the workers´ dignity.
  4. Train new employees properly on occupational safety, labor laws, and other measures.
  5. Provide compensation for the “infringement of workers.”

SACOM isn´t alone in calling out Foxconn, as the China Labour Bulletin is also unimpressed with Foxconn´s “improvements.”

“I haven´t seen any real evidence of any significant changes,” said Geoffrey Crothall of the CLB, according to Reuters.

“At the moment they´re just tinkering around the edges and doing PR stunts “¦ I don´t think there´s a short term fix to the situation at Foxconn. It´s too big, it´s too complicated.”

While Apple isn´t the only company to send their production and manufacturing to Foxconn, they are the largest, and are often expected to lead by example, and insist the changes be made.