Sat, Aug 10, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL:Life advice from dubious sources

Almost 14 months ago, China Labor Watch accused Foxconn Technology Group of breaking multiple Chinese labor laws at its plant in Hengyang by hiring too many temporary workers, underpaying its employees, subjecting them to verbal abuse and forcing some of them to work more than 100 hours of overtime per month and more than two consecutive weeks at a time.

The plant was assembling Amazon.com’s Echo Dot speakers and Kindle e-readers. Amazon said it knew of the problems and had asked Foxconn to take corrective measures.

Foxconn, known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co in Taiwan, and founded by tycoon-turned-political-wannabe Terry Gou (郭台銘), promised to make changes. It apparently did — by making working conditions at the plant even worse.

While allegations of abusive labor conditions at Foxconn plants in China are nothing new, given a decade of such reports, they became an issue again in Taiwan earlier this year when Gou threw his red baseball hat into the ring for next year’s presidential election.

Gou is out of the running, having placed second in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential primary, but his name is still being bandied about as a possible running mate for either the KMT’s candidate, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), or independent-turned-own-party-founder Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). Not only have Gou and his supporters played up his business acumen and management skills as qualifications for being able to help revive Taiwan’s economy, Gou has repeatedly talked about the need to do something for the younger generation.

On Monday, a member of Gou’s campaign team for the KMT primary said the tycoon would establish a platform to facilitate dialogue with young people, because he knows that university students have many questions and he wants to offer them a helping hand.

That might sound very noble, except the Guardian on Thursday broke the news that Foxconn documents leaked to China Labor Watch show that not only has the company again contravened Chinese labor laws at its Hengyang plant by employing hundreds of teenage vocational-school students as “interns” to meet production targets for Amazon’s Alexa devices, it did so because it decided the benefits outweighed the risks.

Chinese labor laws bar factories from making teenagers or student interns work nights or overtime, yet at a factory management meeting on July 25, according to the Guardian report, it was said that some of the students were refusing to work night shifts and overtime, so their teachers needed to intervene to either make sure they would, or the interns would be sacked.

The newspaper said the documents also showed that Foxconn had last year reduced the pay rates for its Hengyang plant interns. According to the paper, Foxconn blamed the situation on “lax oversight on the part of the local management team,” and said it was taking steps to ensure the situation would not be repeated.

Amazon said it was investigating and would not tolerate violations of its supplier code.

However, such words are basically meaningless, given that they pretty much reiterated the promises both companies made in July last year.

Gou stepped down as Hon Hai’s chief executive officer on June 21, following up on a pledge in mid-April to retire soon so that he could pass on his 45 years of experience to the next generation.

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