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Foxconn may replace workers at its plants with robots. The plants which have been dubbed as "hellish" by the Chinese media, also are cutting their sucide payouts. They already don't pay for workers who die of exhaustion.  (Source: Telegraph UK)

Foxconn is blame news orginizations' reporting of the deaths for provoking more suicides, dismissing that poor working conditions are to blame.  (Source: Southern Weekly)
Company also blames news networks for the suicides

Foxconn seemed to be turning the corner in working conditions and corporate policy.  It had raised employees' base wages and instituted additional performance based increases, as well.  It even had retracted its contract letters to employees demanding they didn't kill themselves.  Now the manufacturer -- which services Apple, Sony, Microsoft, and a host of other companies -- is turning to some controversial new changes.

First of all, at its annual shareholder meeting yesterday, Terry Gou, CEO of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry (owners of the Chinese Foxconn unit) blamed news agencies and company payouts for the rash of suicides.  He first read a letter from one of the employees who killed himself, which stated: I'm going to jump off Foxconn, really leaving now, but you don't have to be sad, because Foxconn will pay a bit of money, this is all your son can repay you now.
He also stated that 6 of the 12 suicides, which occurred in May after the story received international attention, may have triggered a "Werther Effect" -- people reading about the story and deciding to kill themselves.  As a result, Gou is handing control over "welfare management work" to the Chinese local government, which may chose to block internet coverage for the events.

He also announced that Foxconn will no longer pay the families of employees who kill themselves.  Recently a worker died, apparently from exhaustion from working long hours and Foxconn refused to pay his family, as well.  The new policy, though, ends suicide payouts that could total as much as 10 years worth of salary.

Foxconn has also started to flee China, where it currently employs over 800,000 people.  In the shareholders meeting it said that the rise in wages from ¥900 ($132) to ¥1,200 ($176), and for top performers up to ¥2,000 ($293), is compelling it to move to countries with cheaper labor or seek alternative options. 

It says that it may replace employees with robots, building a fully automated assembly line in Taiwan.  This suggestion is somewhat ironic, given recent Foxconn factory workers' complaints that they felt like "robots" when performing their duties. 

Chairman Samuel Chen says that the company may also shift employees and orders to its Vietnam plant, where labor is cheaper.  Chen says that Foxconn is working with the companies that contract it to make these moves as smooth as possible.

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RE: Just low....
By crleap on 6/9/2010 2:18:26 PM , Rating: 2
Really good well written argument. Was wondering if anyone could do that here after my first reply.

I do agree that the complexity of blame and responsibility will always be daunting in a world where we spread modern guns and ideas to places that might as well be another planet in terms of development. I would, however, support acting on behalf of these workers only after they've tried to change what they're faced with. If they try to revolt on a societal scale, I'm all for helping them out in any way we can as a nation.

China, however, is not some third world country that is undeveloped and hopeless. They are making staggering scientific advances and developing their nation to a degree not seen in many other places. They are funding it through places like Foxconn. I read an article last time I was at the dr office in Time magazine from a few years back that showed many of the ways that China is set to surpass us and become the next superpower in time. Granted, it's mass media and I am inherently distrustful, but Time is generally considered a reliable source. The people of China were proud of their nation's achievements, and worked as a whole to help progress their country in the face of growing pains. I don't think the discontent is as far reached as people want to believe from reading snippets of whatever happened at Foxconn today articles on tech sites. Most Chinese people seem to be more patriotic than any American has been for decades.

I do agree that things are harder now in terms of revolution, with governments being more and more autonomous, better armed, and with virtually limitless resources. However, we as a people in the US are guilty of maintaining our own status quo, which most of us find unfavorable. You are correct, a lot of us sit in chairs and type about our woes rather than picking up arms and going at the govt we dislike. I can honestly say, though, that I am not fed up enough to take a gun and march capitol hill given the consequences. First, there aren't enough people at the breaking point to provide enough effect to bring about changes. Not right now, anyway. The American revolution didn't take place over a weekend either. It was many years of obnoxious government that drove them to the point of armed revolt.

I think the Chinese people are probably having a growing dissent, a lot of them are unhappy. Of those unhappy, some may think patriotically and look forward for China's future benefit for their work now. Others kill themselves. Others just keep working. It IS their responsibility to signal, as a majority, when enough is enough. At that point, I expect them to take the lead in doing whatever they need to do. It won't be pretty, it won't be free... change never is. But it will be their will, and if it's a big enough problem that enough of them want to change it, I don't care how entrenched your govt is, you can't suppress your society's majority.

I really do appreciate and respect your well-written reply. You seem to have taken the extra minute to think things through more deeply than most around here, and I admit I did fall prey to simplifying a lot of aspects of my argument, both for the sake of time, and figuring nobody would "get it" around here anyway. "Responsibility" and "blame" are complex issues, of which I do not have the complete picture, but I have thought it through enough to feel we should back the Chinese people when enough of them stand up and say "ENOUGH!" However, in respect to our seemingly unending human need to define territory and authority, it is NOT our place to stand up first and speak for them.

RE: Just low....
By kyp275 on 6/10/2010 3:21:32 AM , Rating: 2
One also have to take into account the cultural differences between the US and China, and realize just how diverse a group the "Chinese" people are, both culturally and geopolitically.

I'm surprised that so many here seems to have painted China and its people into one stereotype or another. To claim the US is responsible for the working conditions of Foxconn workers is to be completely ignorant of Chinese history, this is nothing new people, this kind of things have went on for as long as China itself have been around. It is merely a manifestation of the geopolitical issues between the inland and coastal regions of China, a subject whose scope is far too broad for here.

And for the record, China has had far more civil wars and revolutions than most other nation in the world...

RE: Just low....
By moriz on 6/10/2010 11:31:07 AM , Rating: 2
you have to realize that china's society is inherentally unfair. trust me, i was born there, and witnessed all this first hand.

many of these people, whom you've derided as being unwilling or not having the ability to find better jobs, actually do have the will and ability to do so, but are simply unable to. china is a nation that's operating in the 21 century, but is stuck having the social structure of the early 1900s. unlike here in north america, simply having the ability and will is not enough. resources are plentiful, but are shared very unequally. i bet you anything that there are people inside that factory with genius level intellect, but simply don't have the means to go to school. post secondary education is extremely expensive in china, and many people are forced to decide to work in these factories and support their family, or leave and make their family (and themselves) starve.

forcing changes from the inside is also impossible, since this system of inequality and corruption is too well entrenched. under-the-table deals and pulling favors is common practice in china. these workers unionize and trying to demand changes themselves will likely end up being ignored, or worse, end up with them being arrested, or slaughtered. the history of china is smeared in blood, and it might sound callous of me for saying this, but a few drops more won't make a difference. if any change were to happen, it will have to be initiated both from the inside and out. i'm not saying that boycotting products is the way to go, but there's got to be something that we can do.

i've always maintained the opinion that the next great scientist/leader/nobel prize winner/whatever-great-person is currently working away in the fields or factories of china. it's a real shame to have such potential being wasted. if i ever have the great fortune of acquiring a shitton of money, i'd put most of it into a scholarship aimed to find and bring those people out of poverty. it's the least i can do for the country of my birth.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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