FOXCONN’S promise of facilitating a democratic trade union is only for their marketing image, says a research team based in several universities in the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong.
It is a faked response to their customers’ concerns say Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM).
A series of recent strikes by workers and several suicides have highlighted the dire conditions at the factory.
A recent SACOM report from China and Hong Kong reveals that the high enrolment rate in the Foxconn union is just window-dressing.
The world’s biggest factory empire has never realised its commitment to promote democratic industrial relation and to fulfill its corporate social responsibility.
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., trading as Foxconn, is a Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturing company headquartered in Tucheng, New Taipei, Taiwan.
It is the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer measured by revenues.
Foxconn is primarily an original design manufacturer, and its clients include major American, European, and Japanese electronics and information technology companies.
Notable products that the company manufactures include Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod, Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii U.
Foxconn has been involved in several disputes, most relating to how it manages employees in China where it is the largest private-sector employer.
In 2012 Apple hired the Fair Labor Association to conduct an audit of working conditions at Foxconn
The research team was formed by teachers and students of Peking University, Wuhan University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, to monitor progress towards trade union wages and conditions promised by the factory owners.
The fieldwork research started on March 15 and ended on April 7. First-hand data were collected through questionnaires as well as face-to-face interviews with workers.
According to the latest news report from a Chinese newspaper, the promised union elections are in limbo.
On 4 February 2013, the Financial Times reported that Foxconn was going to launch its first ever democratic union elections among its factories with assistance from the Fair Labour Association (FLA).
There are only a few channels for them to reach the union.
One of them is the labour caring hotline ‘78585’, which is a complaint and counselling channel set up by Foxconn for workers.
However, there are reports that the complainants often were victims of revenge from their seniors and the complaints are never resolved.
The report claims that it is clear that a genuine trade union with democratic participation has never existed and that Foxconn’s union promise is only for their marketing image and a faked response to their customers’ concern.
The report says Foxconn workers’ have strong expectations for genuine trade union rights, including the ability to intervene with the management, the union as a mediator to improve their working conditions through intervention into the factory management and to fight for workers’ rights and basic level workers’ participation in the union.
Workers are looking forward to having a democratic union with frontline workers’ participation for workers’ rights and interests.
There was a report from a mainland Chinese press, Securities Daily, on 6 May 2013, referring to a Foxconn spokesperson, who claimed that ‘union election is never on Foxconn’s agenda’.
SACOM says it is severely disappointed that Foxconn has broken its promise to launch a genuinely representative union election.
‘We see no reason for Foxconn to ignore workers’ strong and clear demand on the democratisation of union’.
‘We are asking Foxconn:
• together with FLA, to give a full account on direct union elections in Foxconn factories;
• to promote genuine democratisation and participation of general workers in their trade union as soon as possible;
• to fulfil its responsibilities and promises on the issue of labour rights and respect the dignity of workers.
SACOM says the PR stunts by Foxconn were impaired by the riots in Taiyuan and the strike in Zhengzhou.
The abusive use of child labour and interns has become the latest nightmare of Foxconn.
In September last year SACOM issued an investigative report on Foxconn, ‘New iPhone, Old Abuses’.
It revealed that the Hennan provincial government had pressed the vocational schools and local authorities to supply labour to Foxconn to cope with the high turnover rate and the peak season.
The schools and townships even have to meet a quota in sending people to the company.
Recently, the local media in China exposed the problem of the exploitation of student workers sponsored by the local authorities.
Even worse, to fulfill the task, some vocational schools have ordered the underage students to work at Foxconn.
This Monday, The China National Radio reported the problem of underage interns at Foxconn’s plant in Yantai, Shandong Province.
Foxconn subsequently admitted the use of underage workers, 14-15 years old.
It is the perpetrator for child labour.
According to the report from the China National Radio, the use of the underage student interns was acknowledged by Foxconn.
A 15-year-old said his I.D. card has been checked by Foxconn staff though it clearly showed he was born in December 1997.
Meanwhile, the Jinghua Times uncovered that the Yantai Engineering and Technology College was one of the schools which sent students to Foxconn for the internship programme.
Among the students from the Yantai Engineering and Technology Colleage, about 50-60 of them are under 16 years old.
Foxconn knows that the students are underage workers and dozens of underage interns from a single school only shows the tip of the iceberg.
It is disturbing that Foxconn intentionally uses underage interns as flexible labour.
SACOM has been exposing the internship programme at Foxconn as bogus.
The systematic violation is affirmed by a recent report in the Jinghua Times.
Students studying food processing or accounting were sent to Foxconn’s production lines.
They work like ordinary workers. They even have to attend night shift and work overtime.
An underage student from the Yantai Engineering and Technology College said he did not have a day off in a month.
Foxconn’s claims that the internship programme is beneficial to the students and did not require students to work overtime once again proved to be lies, says SACOM.
Given that the use of child labour is strictly prohibited by the labour laws and the code of conduct of its clients, Foxconn still deliberately tramples on the labour standard.
It is not hard to imagine that other fundamental labour rights are systematically breached by Foxconn.
As such, the brands must closely monitor the labour practices at Foxconn and rectify the problems immediately.
The absence of genuine trade union is a main challenge for workers to correct the gross labour rights violations in the factory.
SACOM calls for democratic elections at Foxconn and the union must be formed as a part of structural reform.
Furthermore, the cases of underage workers found are linked to the bogus internship programme. And this exposes the abuses beyond the use of underage workers.
SACOM demands the clients of Foxconn work together to end the sham internship programme to protect the young students in China.
On 10 January, a strike erupted at Foxconn in Fengcheng, Jiangxi Province to demand a wage increase and dignity.
On the following day, over 1,000 workers took to the street and blocked the main road.
The riot police quickly intervened and suppressed the workers.
According to SACOM first hand information, alongside media source in China, there was a strong presence of the riot police and water cannon and physical violence were used to suppress the strikers.
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) condemned the crackdown on the workers’ strike and demanded Foxconn and Apple enter into dialogue with workers to address their grievances.
The establishment of a democratic union at Foxconn should not be delayed!
Apple and Foxconn are willing to lavish money on PR stunts but reluctant to carry out structural reform in their labour practices.
Regardless of the media campaign of Apple and Foxconn which trumpets decent working conditions in the factories, sweatshop-like conditions remain.
In addition, there is no genuine worker representative system at Foxconn to respond to the workers’ sentiment.
The monthly basic salary of Foxconn workers is 1,300 yuan (USD 209).
Workers cannot support themselves and their dependents from the basic salary.
After the deductions for food and dormitory, the disposable income for workers is even more meagre.