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The Chinese government thinks that Foxconn's employee union is one key towards improving working conditions at the company's plants. The government has demanded action from the company after a string of suicides at the company's Apple plant in Shenzhen.  (Source: Indy Media)
Foxconn's owners are facing their most serious criticism yet

Foxconn's Taiwanese owner Hon Hai has tried everything to curb the suicides at its Chinese Shenzhen plant -- anger rooms where employees can beat away their stress, soothing Buddhist music on the assembly line, counseling from monks, and, most recently, requiring employees to sign contract letters promising not to kill themselves (the letter has since been retracted).  However, none of those steps seems to have worked yet at stopping the suicides at the plant which manufactures most of the world's iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

On Saturday the top Communist Party official of Guangdong, Wang Yang demanded Foxconn clean up its act, arguing that improved unions could help the situation.  Yang, provincial party secretary, comments, "[The government and Hon Hai must] work together and take effective measures to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.  Labor unions in private firms should be improved to facilitate better working conditions and more harmonious relations between workers and employers."

Thus far 10 employees have taken their lives at the Shenzhen plant, which houses between 330,000 and 400,000 people.  Three others were seriously injured in suicide attempts.  Compared to the average suicide rate in China, this would seem rather normal.  However, workers in factories typically have a much lower suicide rate than the national average.  And the number of males committing suicides is unusual.  Rural females alone account for half of China's suicides in recent statistics, while urban females account for a portion of the remaining suicides.

Foxconn reportedly has been making employees work long overtime, sometimes unpaid.  Even as it made record profits, it also failed to give employees a promised raise in recent months, as well (entry level employees currently make around $132 a month).  There's even reports of company security details beating and harassing workers.

At this point Foxconn has at least committed to at last giving its employees their promised raise.  It has not said when it will implement the raise, but says "it should be very soon."  Particular raises are at the discretion of local management.  Company officials explain, "It would be an average 20% increase, which means some areas will be more than 20%."  

Meanwhile a probe into the company by Apple, HP, Dell, Sony, Nokia, and Nintendo continues.  Between scrutiny from its corporate partners and the Chinese government, pressure is building for Hon Hai to step in and improve its working conditions (better pay, shorter hours), even if that means cutting into its annual profit of NT$75.69B ($2.35B USD).

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I knew
By Sahrin on 5/31/2010 8:32:07 AM , Rating: 1
one day that despite all the gradual push towards capitalism, China's communist roots would be its downfall. I just never thought it would be specifically labor unions that caused it. Have fun, guys! We're still trying to get rid of them here.

Kidding aside, labor unions are *not* going to stop the suicide problem. If there is a decrease, it's related to some social aspect of the union (not the union itself) which can be duplicated without the negative side effects of having a union. I don't know the specific problems (aside from perhaps being forced to look at a universal symbol of ignorance like the Apple logo all day), so I can't provide a specific solution. Foxconn's CEO needs to go there and spend a week - figure out where the weaknesses are and fix them.

RE: I knew
By HotFoot on 5/31/2010 9:13:05 AM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty much fed up with what a lot of Unions in NA are pushing for these days, but historically I can appreciate them. When unions first formed in the UK, the alternative was Communism. Unions working in a free market are by far the lesser of the two evils.

RE: I knew
By sebmel on 5/31/10, Rating: 0
RE: I knew
By Azure Sky on 6/3/2010 12:15:08 PM , Rating: 2
1. this plant dosnt make xboxes

2. this plant dosnt make xboxes

3. this plant dosnt make xboxes

This plant is primarly APPLE PRODUCTS and its APPLE pushing for higher production without raising costs that has caused these conditions to worsen.

your great St.Steve DOSNT CARE ABOUT PEOPLE, if your not an itard or cant afford iProducts you arent worth his time, Think I am kidding, read up on things he has said, Apple/st.steve have zero interest in selling products to people who cant currently afford a mac or iphone, they actively refuse to create cheaper devices that could allow people entry into the iTard world, because to do that would lower their profit margins.

The ONLY reason apple is subsidizing this raise is due to bad PR they want to lessen or counter, because it could hurt sales.

RE: I knew
By Fenixgoon on 5/31/2010 10:00:09 AM , Rating: 2
labor unions can vastly improve the working conditions. just like they did here.

do not be so hasty to dismiss unions - yes they seem to be more hurting than helping here, but that's the result of a series of bad decisions over a long period of time.

RE: I knew
By stirfry213 on 6/1/2010 11:38:06 AM , Rating: 2
Hey, this could be a good thing.

Let the unions infest every facet of their society. It will end up raising the cost of producing goods over there. Maybe, just maybe it will then end up bringing some of those jobs back to the states because its no longer financially feasible to produce goods in a foreign country.

RE: I knew
By jnolen on 6/1/2010 12:07:18 PM , Rating: 2

RE: I knew
By michael67 on 5/31/2010 11:10:59 AM , Rating: 2
I always liked my union, when i was still living in Holland.

When you joined a union, you don't see a mouths of them, they negotiate for you, how mouths your wages go up, they get a lawyer for you if you need one, and negotiate the basic things you need for a healthy work place.

But they also try to do whats best for the company you are working for, "give and take"

Now i moved to Norway, and i can say, for me here the union is just a pain in the ass, and have the feeling the union is just doing whats best for the union.

A union should be your represent, and try to get a deal ware both party's can live whit, to bad some of them are to raped up in there own business.

So imo unions can be a benefit ore a curse, but ofc you get the type of union people vote for to represent you, its just hard to find the right people to do that job for you.

RE: I knew
By seamonkey79 on 5/31/2010 12:12:47 PM , Rating: 3
Properly conceived unions are wonderful, the vast majority of them, however, are completely joke-filled. They are in fact, interested only in the benefit of the *union*, not the members, nor the business the members work for.

That's the joke that most modern unions have become.

RE: I knew
By Sahrin on 5/31/2010 1:16:37 PM , Rating: 2
Everything that's been listed in response to my post is something that can be achieved *without* the existence of unions. The proof is in the putting: the most powerful union in the world (the UAW) currently gets *less* pay for its employees than non-union auto workers do. Combine that with the fact that unionized factories are getting shut down left and right facing huge layoffs, while non-unionized plants are winning quality awards and adding shifts and you have to wonder if their original impetus (and ongoing driver) was truly worker safety - or just intellectual laziness?

I also like how the teamsters are already in here downrating me ;)

RE: I knew
By hashish2020 on 5/31/2010 1:19:43 PM , Rating: 1
"the most powerful union in the world (the UAW) currently gets *less* pay for its employees than non-union auto workers do. "

No they don't. This is a patently false statement.

Oh and quality awards? What was that company who recalled a massive amount of cars recently?

RE: I knew
By Sahrin on 5/31/2010 1:27:02 PM , Rating: 2
I WAS HOPING SOMEONE WOULD CALL ME ON IT - You are the LUCKY person that gets humiliated by the facts:

RE: Massive Recalls - so you're saying paying employees better has a negative impact on quality. So let's cut unions! Anything to slander a company that is able to succeed without unions, eh?

RE: I knew
By Iaiken on 5/31/10, Rating: 0
RE: I knew
By Sahrin on 5/31/2010 2:29:26 PM , Rating: 2 cited the Union for pay differences? That's like asking BP whether they think they are doing enough to clean up the oil spill. The fact that you made that citation tells anyone reading it everything they need to know about your opinion.

RE: I knew
By Iaiken on 5/31/2010 3:09:49 PM , Rating: 3
Despute it all you like, what you are saying is wrong.

Even the Center for American Progress Action Fund 2009 findings on the subject based on US census data is against you:

The current Union premium is 11.5%.

Sure there are going to be areas where non-union workers make less (mostly Technology, Math & Engineering), but the majority of workers DO make significantly more. Especially once you branch out to include benefit and pension, in which cases the union premium can be as high as 35% (UAW and CAW).

That said, the average white collar at GM/Ford makes $50,000 more per year (sans benefits) than the average blue collar worker (including all benefits).

As for your proposal of me being against unions, I am both for and against aspects of unions just as I am both for and against aspects of management.

In many cases, North American Unions have outlived their usefulness because much of they fought for (and won) is now law that protect everyone and not just Union members. However, in places like China, unions can be invaluable when it comes to giving the workers the representation and bargaining power that they need.

Ultimately, the individual unions will succeed or fail on their own virtues and vices and since they are not about to be dismantled, we'll just have to wait and see what happens to the companies that depend upon their labour.

RE: I knew
By hashish2020 on 5/31/2010 3:25:05 PM , Rating: 2
From your Slate article

"Gettelfinger argued Toyota's workers actually make $2-per-hour more than UAW workers, if you count bonuses. "

You cited the union indirectly, nice try.

From the other article

"In that instance, Toyota Motor Corp. gave workers at its largest U.S. plant bonuses of $6,000 to $8,000, boosting the average pay at the Georgetown, KY, plant to the equivalent of $30 an hour. That compares with a $27 hourly average for UAW workers, most of whom did not receive profit-sharing checks last year. Toyota WOULD NOT PROVIDE [emphasis mine] a U.S. average, but said its 7,000-worker Georgetown plant is representative of its U.S. operations."

What was that about asking companies and then trusting them to tell the truth without hard facts?

"Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. are not far behind Toyota and UAW pay levels. Comparable wages have long been one way foreign companies fight off UAW organizing efforts. "

Wait, so the fear of unionization is part of the reason for high wages? But I thought it was just the awesome power of non-union excellence that made wages higher AT ONE TOYOTA PLANT?

RE: I knew
By Iaiken on 5/31/2010 4:57:45 PM , Rating: 2
What's more, the commonly cited $27/hour UAW wages, does not include: Group Health Insurance, Group Life Insurance, Prescription Drug Plans, Dental, Vision, Phsyio, Pension Contributions.

Once all of these are figured in, the UAW average remuneration climbs to an astounding $36/hour. That is including janitors, security guards, cafeteria staff and other labour who actually bring that average DOWN. Not everyone in the UAW is actually an auto worker? NO WAI!

The $30 figures given for Toyota were all production line workers and technicians. This figure included profit sharing, bonuses and all of their benefits.

What's more, many (if not all) union benefits remain when you become a pensioner. Union pensioners usually wind up with 50% more income available to them in their retirement years because of the larger pension and offloading of burdens to their benefits packages.

RE: I knew
By hashish2020 on 5/31/2010 3:20:03 PM , Rating: 2
Right. Except the UAW also includes everything from janitorial staff to food staff to line workers. If you have been to a Japanese auto plant (AND let's be clear, you ONLY cited Toyota, Nissan/Honda still pay less) you would see that such employees are employed by subcontractors.

Not to mention, this is a one year fluctuation based on bonuses and MASSIVE pay cuts from the UAW this year, but basic scientific principles don't apply to free market absolutists

RE: I knew
By ihateu3 on 5/31/2010 6:16:46 PM , Rating: 2
Oh and quality awards? What was that company who recalled a massive amount of cars recently?

How easily you've forgotten about the bridgestone/ford recalls. That incident killed way more people than toyota's current flaw. But your right, considering we are use to seeing american vehicles recalled, and were not use to seeing japanese vehicles recalled, then it does make it seem like a big deal.

RE: I knew
By AyashiKaibutsu on 6/3/2010 10:09:54 AM , Rating: 2
Heaven forbid the workers arrange some way to have equal bargining power as their employers because trying to get paid what you feel your time is worth is hardly captilistic. At that point, apple might lose more than .7% of their profits!

By Rebargod on 5/31/2010 9:32:26 AM , Rating: 3
Well, the union concept was appropriate in the early part of the 20th century in North America, for exactly these reasons-to protect the workers.

Sounds like China's people could use them now.

RE: Unions
By aeronb on 5/31/2010 12:26:43 PM , Rating: 2
And too, maybe unions aren't as relevant in the US as they once were but, if they were allowed to go by the wayside, corporate America would have free riegn over labor with an important check lost to maintain balance.

Jobs' mind:
By blackdogdailo on 5/31/2010 9:09:37 AM , Rating: 2
"Hey dude, i got an important product launch next month, i don't care what the heck you will do but don't let those bad press drag down my shiny new phone!! How can I care so much about how you treat your slavery when I am facing my shareholders?! If you can't get the job done I just transfer my order to another sweatshop!!!"

Mao was the government!
By drunkenmastermind on 5/31/2010 8:56:10 PM , Rating: 2
Conversely, Mao's social-political programs, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, are blamed for costing millions of lives, causing severe famine and damage to the culture, society and economy of China. Mao's policies and political purges from 1949 to 1976 are widely believed to have caused the deaths of between 50 to 70 million people.[2][3][4] Since Deng Xiaoping assumed power in 1978, many Maoist policies have been abandoned in favour of economic reforms.

By Ammohunt on 6/1/2010 2:53:19 PM , Rating: 1
Unions are not the answer modern labor law is!

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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