When Chinese Suppliers Abuse Workers: What You Don’t Read in the Headlines (Part 6)

Please click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 in this series. This analysis references the following report: Tragedies of Globalization: The Truth Behind Electronics Sweatshops No Contracts, Excessive Overtime and Discrimination: A Report on Abuses in Ten Multinational Electronics Factories.

Of all the suppliers in China with a track record of employee abuse, worker suicides and the like, Foxconn takes the cake. Of course we should question whether Foxconn deserves the reputation it maintains as the poster child of abusive working conditions. The Telegraph memorialized the conditions at one Foxconn facility that China Labor Watch also recently profiled. According to The Telegraph, "the military-style working regime at Foxconn's Longhua plant, in which more than 300,000 people work, has been heavily criticized. Workers are forbidden to talk on the production line, even in their short breaks, and many have complained of feeling lonely and alienated inside the giant factory."

Of course all of this is spilling out to prospective workers. That is, if they read their exhaustive labor contract, which "specifies the contract restrictions, the content of the work and location, work hours, rest and leave time, remuneration, insurance and benefits, work protection, work conditions, worker protection, protection against occupational hazards, other regulations, contract changes, contract termination, compensation, and dispute settlement." Yet workers won't discover until they hit the floor that the Longhua facility has "instituted a schedule with 10 minutes of rest every two hours" which in practice has a very different effect.

To wit, China Labor Watch reports that "workers on the Apple computer production line receive no rest" in at least one circumstance. "In order to go to the bathroom or drink water, these workers are first required to find a substitute to fill in for their post," the analysis suggests. However, workers can always break their contract -- and the rules. But then they'll be subject to "discipline practices that... are abusive and insulting" including requiring "workers [to] to write a report of at least 500 words and post the report with their photo on the wall" regarding their infraction." And of course, there's the standing treatment for those Foxconn laboring malcontents that violate the rules: "workers are required to stand still for thirty minutes to four hours, etc."

Things could, of course, be worse. Which is probably what led numerous workers at this facility to take their own lives.

Jason Busch

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