Saturday, May 07, 2011

Report confirms Chinese workers' anti-suicide clauses, excessive OT, more

It was reported in mid-2010, in the wake of numerous suicides at Foxconn's Shenzhen plant, that Foxconn had required workers to sign a no-suicide "pact" [although that was reported to have later been rescinded]. Now a new report by the Daily Mail has delved into the details of the no-suicide clause.

The new report seems to confirm that the no-suicide clauses were not rescinded. It also confirms what was reported earlier, that part of the clause included a promise that in the event of a suicide, the employee's family would only seek the legal minimum in damages, and not sue.

However, the report cites an investigation of 500,000 workers by the Center for Research on Multinational Companies and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM). The research found:
  • Despite a legal limit of 36 hours of overtime a month, excessive overtime was rampant. One paystub showed a worker performed 98 hours of overtime in one month, which in a four-week month would mean nearly 25 hours of OT a week.
  • During peak periods of demand for the iPad, workers were forced to work all but one day in a 13-day span.
  • Poorly performing workers were publicly humiliated in front of colleagues.
  • Workers are banned from talking.  They are also forced to stand up during their 12-hour shifts.
Given these conditions, it's little wonder that suicides occurred, particularly before the new policy about lawsuits. It's previously been made clear by investigative reports by sources such as NBC's Dateline that factories in these locales, and not just Chinese ones, "clean up" for inspections, but run this way when no one is coming to check the worksite.

It's true, however, that the SACOM report cites Foxconn as the only supplier out of those studied that set a target to meet the Chinese government-mandated maximum overtime of 36 hours per month within 2011.

In terms of the issues listed above, Foxconn admitted that it breaks overtime laws, but claims all the overtime is voluntary. It added that it had faced
"some very challenging months for everyone associated with the Foxconn family and the loss of a number of colleagues to tragic suicides."
Meanwhile, with regards to the public humiliation of some staff,
Spokesman Louis Woo said:
"It is not something we endorse or encourage. However, I would not exclude that this might happen given the diverse and large population of our workforce. But we are working to change it."
Foxconn recently announced it will be opening new plants in Brazil, leading to speculation that a) demands of higher wages and more in China are leading to Foxconn to seek cheaper labor, and b) that Foxconn is seeking new sites to reduce the focus on the conditions of its Chinese plants.

Via: Daily Mail, TUAW

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