The Latest Report on Foxconn Working Conditions

May 31, 2012

The Guardian reports on the latest study of labor conditions at Foxconn factories. Hong Kong workers’ rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) found that:

Grueling workloads, humiliating punishments and battery-farm living conditions remain routine for workers assembling Apple’s luxury electronics, according to one of the most detailed reports yet on life inside China’s Foxconn factories.

The researchers claim that intimidation, exhaustion and labour rights violations “remain the norm” for the hundreds of thousands of Chinese iPhone workers, despite Apple redoubling its efforts to improve conditions.

Nothing new here, but it is an update on how much/how little progress has been made. I do think, though, that we need to separate actual labor violations and working conditions Apple/Foxconn has pledged to change versus conditions that are common here in China.

I think it’s fair, and worthwhile, to cite overtime violations. And if Foxconn has agreed to implement certain policies, by all means, someone should follow up to see whether that has actually happened. But at the end of the day, the conditions at these factories are never going to be satisfactory in the eyes of NGO critics who have standards that are simply much higher than is the norm here.

Just one example:

Where most assembly staff were previously forced to stand, stools have now been introduced for some workers. However, they are under instructions to sit on only a third of the seat, so that they remain “nimble” enough to do the work.

Is the glass half full or half empty? No labor violation there, and progress has been made. Is this “nimble” sitting policy now on the list of things that must be changed?

We aren’t there yet, not by a long shot, but there might come a day when labor activists will need to declare victory and go home.

4 thoughts on “The Latest Report on Foxconn Working Conditions

  1. numble

    SACOM specifically focused on Foxconn workers in general, not Foxconn workers on the Apple lines. There is a big difference between Apple saying that their Foxconn workers are working 60 OT hours or less a month, and SACOM saying they found one Foxconn worker working 78 OT hours one month.

    1. Stan Post author

      Absolutely. Unfortunately, you know that these days, anything that comes out in the press about Foxconn will conflate the two erroneously – as I did. In many minds, I think the two names are inextricably linked now.

  2. allroads

    Stan.

    Also. not to split hairs… but Apple/ Foxconn to date is ONLY audits and recommendations. they have moved into the “”getting shit done” phase yet. Which will likely happen once the story has died out of the media… it almost has.

    R

  3. John

    Excellent article. I go to Foxconn (in Chengdu and Shenzhen) all the time and I sometimes wonder if I am going to the same place that westerners complain about. All I can say is that I wish the first job I had while in high school (in the U.S.) had as good of a working environment as Foxconn.