Wed, May 04, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Foxconn workers treated like ‘machines’: labor group


Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn (富士康) treats its workers like “machines,” a Hong Kong-based labor group said yesterday after a survey based on interviews with the firm’s workers in China.

At least 13 Foxconn employees died in apparent suicides last year, which labor rights activists blamed on tough working conditions.

The group, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), said Foxconn’s employees were forced to work excessive overtime with “military-styled training.”

“SACOM is startled by the dire working conditions,” the group said in its report — based on interviews with 120 Foxconn workers in March and last month — given to Agence-France Presse ahead of its release on Saturday.

SACOM said many Foxconn employees worked 80 to 100 hours of overtime a month on top of their regular 174 hours, which the report said was more than three times China’s legal limit.

“Most of the workers yearn for more overtime work because the basic salary is not enough for survival,” said SACOM, which added that the workers earn as little as US$200 a month.

The group also claimed workers were made to skip meal breaks during a typical 10-hour daily shift, while new employees had to undergo “military training,” which they dismissed as “nonsense.”

“The content of the military training is merely standing. A supervisor will ask dozens of workers [to] line up in discipline and form a square. Workers are required to stand still as a soldier for hours,” the report said.

Any mistake at work resulted in harsh punishment, the report said, with some workers forced to write a “confession letter” read out to their colleagues.

Foxconn declined to directly comment on the group’s claims, but promised an investigation into the alleged mistreatment if “the authors of the report in question can provide us with specific information.”

“Our policies and practices are regularly audited by our customers and their consultants, by government officials and by our own teams,” Foxconn said in a statement, adding that any violations of the law “are immediately addressed.”

“Our company policy also requires that all management and supervisory staff treat our employees with the highest level of respect and we have formal grievance procedures that all employees can use,” the firm said.

Foxconn is the world’s largest maker of computer components and produces items for Apple, Sony and Nokia. It employs about 1 million workers in China, about half of them based in its main facility in Shenzhen.

The string of suicides prompted Foxconn to roll out a series of measures, including safety nets outside buildings, wage hikes and a morale-boosting rally for its workers.

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