Sun, Dec 30, 2012 - Page 14 News List

China’s factories changing as world watches

Since a report early this year highlighting working conditions at Apple’s key contractor in China, Foxconn has committed to and implemented reforms

By Keith Bradsher and Charles Duhigg  /  NY Times News Service, CHENGDU, China

Quanta’s 10-story dormitories feel like a college campus. There is a free movie theater, television rooms, a large martial arts gym, two spacious karaoke bars, a huge cafeteria and an aerobics hall playing a Chinese remix of Gangnam Style.

Neither Quanta nor Hewlett-Packard claims it has solved every labor woe. And the amenities are partly selfish: One of the biggest problems for Chinese factories is that workers are constantly leaving. Hewlett-Packard hopes that by improving living conditions, turnover and training costs will fall.

Hewlett-Packard also makes products at Foxconn factories, as does almost every major electronics firm. Foxconn, more than any other company, has proved that Chinese plants can deliver obsessive attention to quality. The company has helped make China into a manufacturing juggernaut through strict discipline that is visible everywhere, from the salutes employees give visiting executives to morning calisthenics for workers.

CHANGE IS HARD

That discipline is one reason every iPhone is put together so well, former Apple executives said.

It is also one reason the reforms enjoyed by employees like Pu — who received the new chair — have not spread quickly. Though Foxconn has trained managers to treat employees more gently, foremen still use profanity and intimidation, workers say.

“The managers speak in a manner that often feels like a threat,” said Mou Kezhang, who works in iPad quality assurance at the Foxconn factory in Chengdu.

Foxconn said it had “always been among the fastest to adopt change and reform.” Its policy is “to treat employees with respect and if we find any transgressions, they are immediately investigated and addressed,” its statement said.

Additional reporting by Yadan Ouyang

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