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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and, most recently, requiring employees to sign contract letters promising not to kill themselves (the letter has since been retracted).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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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.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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