updated 11:10 am EDT, Fri June 4, 2010
Says Apple complicit in poor working conditions
Another Foxconn worker has died under unusual circumstances, but this time not from suicide, says a Hong Kong-based activist group. Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) says that on May 27th, a 27-year-old engineer named Yan Li collapsed and died from exhaustion. He had been working for 34 hours straight, the group alleges, and his wife claims that prior to that point, Yan had been working the night shift for a month, always putting in overtime.
Some 10 Foxconn workers have killed themselves as of January. Both Foxconn and one of its main clients, Apple, have however denied links to poor working conditions, which have been reported by local journalists as very harsh. Some employees are said to work virtually non-stop manufacturing goods, only getting enough time off to eat and sleep. Foxconn has attributed the deaths to personal problems, while Apple CEO Steve Jobs has defended them as below Chinese and American suicide rates, arguing that Foxconn is "not a sweatshop."
SACOM charges that Apple is complicit in factory conditions, resisting any serious attempt to correct the situation. Even though Foxconn is raising pay for production workers by 30 percent, possibly with help from Apple, SACOM notes that this does not tackle working conditions, and that the new base wage of 1,200 yuan is only slightly above the legal minimum wages in Shanghai and Guangzhou, which are 1,120 and 1,100 yuan, respectively. Shenzhen, the home of the facility at the heart of complaints, could potentially raise its minimum to 1,400 yuan.
SACOM is demanding that Foxconn and all of the parties involved work towards alleviating pressure on workers, for instance by providing truly better pay to workers, financed by companies like Apple increasing the unit prices they pay. Foxconn treats workers the way it does because of a need to offer the lowest prices, says SACOM. The group is also asking for support in forming a genuine union, as opposed to one backed by China's communist government.