What’s Going Wrong At Foxconn (And What Can Be Done To Fix Things)



We’ve read through the Fair Labor Association’s report on Foxconn’s facilities, and while the picture it paints of conditions is bleak, they’re not insurmountably awful, or even particularly Dickensian. Rather, these are issues that can be fixed… many through simple communication.

Here’s all the bad in the FLA’s report, and what Foxconn can do to fix things.

Problem: Average weekly work hours are over the legal limits pretty much everywhere in Foxconn, and employees are constantly working shifts exceeding 7 days straight, despite the fact that Chinese law requires one 24 hour break for every week long shift.

Solution: Foxconn has promised to go on a hiring spree, and by July 1, 2013, no worker will work over 49 hours a week. They will still be guaranteed the same pay, though.

Problem: Workers don’t feel safe, especially when employees are blowing up in aluminum dust explosions or falling prey to n-hexane poisoning. Workers don’t feel that safety committees at Foxconn actually do anything.

Solution: Greater accountability. Foxconn is going to report and record every single employee injury, so that they can track injury trends over time, as well as be audited by outside agencies.

Problem: Foxconn’s unions aren’t representative of the wishes of employees. Instead, representative committees tend to be populated by puppets whom bow and scrape to the managers. The workers don’t feel that they have any say in things.

Solution: Democracy! Foxconn’s going to introduce an election process, as well as offer information about unions to new hires.

Problem: There’s no child slavery at Foxconn, but interns are another story. Interns are often put to work for shifts longer than 8 hours straight and for more than five days a week. In fact, Foxconn often puts them on night shifts and overtime.

Solution: Foxconn’s promising to stop this practice, and the aforementioned new hires should help.

Problem: Overtime scamming happens. 14% of workers only get paid unscheduled overtime by the half hour, so if a manager knocks them off at 29 minute increments, they don’t get paid.

Solution: Foxconn’s switching that to 15 minute intervals.

Problem: Insurance. A whopping 99% of all Foxconn employees are migrants, but in China, insurance is only allotted to people working within the province. In other words, in a migrant worker goes home, they’re suddenly uninsured.

Solution: Foxconn promises that they will soon be offering privatized insurance.

While there are some real problems here, it’s worth nothing that a full third of all Foxconn employees interviewed by the Fair Labor Association wanted to work more, not less, and barely 18% felt they were being overworked. You’d get a worse response here at Cult of Mac.

True, Foxconn so far has only offered up promises, and they’ve promised us changes before. That said, the biggest positive change Foxconn can make is open accountability. Not only have they done that with Apple’s independent audit by the Fair Labor Association, they’re promising to keep more thorough records so it can happen again. We need to keep the pressure on them, but by all accounts, it looks like Foxconn is a company that at least wants to be one with nothing to hide?


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