Tue, Feb 05, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Foxconn’s China union plans on track

WORKERS’ RIGHTS:The firm has agreed to implement a more inclusive union program in China, which a Hong Kong labor group said though laudable was just an initial step

Bloomberg

Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團) said it will meet a July deadline for giving Chinese workers greater representation in unions after Apple Inc’s membership of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) last year triggered reforms.

“Anyone can run to be a representative in the labor union,” Louis Woo (胡國輝), spokesman for Taipei-based Foxconn said yesterday by telephone.

The company’s expansion of worker representation started late last year and has to be in compliance with China’s labor union laws.

Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics, submitted to FLA audits of some campuses after Apple joined the labor-monitoring group following worker suicides and an explosion at another supplier that soiled public perceptions of the iPhone maker.

Checks by the Washington-based FLA last year found at least 50 breaches of Chinese regulations and the code of conduct Apple signed when it joined the association.

The FLA also said that worker committees “may not be truly representative” because management nominates candidates for election. Foxconn agreed to ensure that elections would take place without interference, the group said.

Foxconn more than doubled wages after protests from rights groups, including China Labor Watch and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior.

A follow-up report by the FLA in August last year said Foxconn was on track to meet its July deadline for free elections and cutting workers’ hours to 49 hours a week.

Foxconn began rolling out the new union electoral process, with more union representatives directly elected by workers, last year, Woo said. The company must wait for current terms to expire before implementing the new procedures, he said.

Any union must be a member of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which may choose to conduct collective bargaining instead of allowing Foxconn workers’ representatives to deal with management, said Geoff Crothall, spokesman for Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin.

That may mean Foxconn workers do not get to engage in real collective bargaining because the ACFTU often balances the needs of companies and the government with those of workers, he said.

To make the new process meaningful, Foxconn needs to ensure the elected union representatives are workers, not managers, and are treated as equals by the company, Crothall said.

Those representatives also need to be held accountable by their co- workers, he said.

“Foxconn deserves plaudits for this initial step, but it’s just an initial step,” Crothall said. “It’s going to be a completely new experience for them because they’ve been used to telling workers what they’ll get.”

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