Workers as Machines: Military Management in Foxconn

  • Foxconn Technology Group, a subsidy of the Hon Hai Precision Industries Ltd., is the world’s leading electronics manufacturer
  • 112th among Global Fortune 500 Companies
  • in 2009, Foxconn took over 44% of the global revenue of the entire electronics manufacturing and services industry (iSuppli Corp. market research)
  • it is the fourteen young workers who perished from suicides between January and August 2010 that forced the world to reflect on the plight of frontline workers at Foxconn and other factories
  • the most typical factory run by a management methodology that boosts productivity through the degradation of workers into dehumanized machines

  • CEO Terry Gou Tai Ming suggested that workers committed suicide in order to gain the huge amount of compensation offered by the company !!!
  • May – in order to evade responsibility, Foxconn even asked workers to sign a document pledging not to commit suicide, which included a clause that their families would not seek extra compensation above that required by the law, and would not use any extreme actions to ruin the company’s reputation
  • Foxconn – electronic brands like Apple, Nokia, HP, Dell, Sony, Sony Ericsson, and Motorola
  • “sweatshop”
  • Workers were not informed in wage increase plan
  • Basic wage is just slightly more than minimum wage –  the basic wage (1200) of frontline workers at Foxconn is only CNY 100 more than the minimum wage (1100)
  • Basic wage is far below living wage
  • Excessive and involuntary overtime – “the overtime work in a month was 140 hours. We do not have a rest day at all.”
  • Even in the midst of the series of suicides, excessive overtime remained prevalent
  • The working hour only diminished in May – workers have to work 10 hours a day and 6 days per week.
  • Deduction of overtime premium –  Only 1.5 times of hourly wage is paid for the overtime work. In other words, there is no double time for overtime work during the weekends. / If the monthly overtime work is more than 80 hours, overtime work beyond 80 hours is not recognized. /  A worker from the quality assessment department explained that her department always has training from 18:00 to 21:00. However, only 1 out of 3 hours is recorded.
  • Unpaid work assembly 
  • Before starting to work, management will ask the workers, “how are you?” Workers must shout, “Good! Very good! Very, very good!” No matter workers like it or not, they can only follow the instructions from the management.
  • Frequent change of work shifts
  • The city union is usually silent on working conditions of the enterprise, but even Wang Tongxin has urged Foxconn to “adopt a more humane style of methodology”.
  • Absolute obedience
  • Work pressure from trap and production quota
  • The production target is usually set at 5000 pieces per day. If there is an influx of orders, the target will be raised to 1000 pieces per hour.
  • Production bonus and competition – Production bonus is delivered twice a year;  workers have to compete with each other to get the bonus;  workers also disclosed that the production bonus would be deducted if workers have declined overtime work or taken sick leave.
  • Depressing environment – All workers have to be highly focused on their work. They are not allowed to talk, doze off, giggle, stretch their bodies or move around. These will lead to reproachment from the frontline management. / no break all day / in some departments where workers can take a break, they are not allowed to rest if they cannot meet the production target.
  • Inhumane punishment
  • Harassment from security guards – Workers are afraid of security guards, some of them having encountered harassment from the security force, or heard from other colleagues that they were harassed.
  • Personal protective equipment not provided to workers. And health examination is denied
  • Health and safety problems have negative impact on the bonuses and career paths of frontline workers and middle management.
  • Around 100,000 students were deployed to work at Foxconn’s Shenzhen production facilities.Furthermore, 119 vocational schools in Chongqing also promised to send students to work in Foxconn. Students expressed that they must comply with the order from their schools or they will be dismissed.
  • More importantly, vocational school students are from a wide range of majors, nursery, locksmith, security guards and so on. In other words, the work at Foxconn is totally irreverent to their studies.
  • Isolation in dormitory 
  • Ten workers share a room. Dormitory gates close at 23:30, and lights are switched off at 00:00. Workers have to take turns to clean the public area of the dormitory
  • No commitment in resolving labour dispute 

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