28 May 2015, Hong Kong

Today (28 May 2015), Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, together with other local labour rights concern groups and students stage a protest at the Annual General Meeting of FIH Mobile Limited, a subsidiary of Foxconn Technology Group, to against the exploitation to Chinese workers and the broken promises of salary increment and direct election of trade union in the factories.

This year, a mainland civil society organization called “ilabour Action Group” conducted a research about the wages, working hours, trade union and the management system in Foxconn factories from Shenzhen, Zhengzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu. They have interviewed 592 workers in total. The report discovered that working conditions of Foxconn workers are still far from satisfactory.

  • Wage increased but benefits are cut unilaterally

In 2012, Terry Guo, chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, declared that the level of salary of Chinese workers would be adjusted to the same level of Taiwanese workers’ before August 2013, which is around RMB 4,000 to 4,400. Despite the increase of basic salary of mainland workers from RMB 900 to RMB 2,120 and RMB 2,450 after probation period in the past five years, the company unilaterally cancelled food & housing allowance, as well as different bonuses. From 2011 to 2015, Shenzhen Foxconn workers’ basic salary has been increased cumulatively 12% but the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has also increased cumulatively to 16.9%. The disposable income of workers is indeed lower.

  • Workers are forced to work overtime because of low basic wage

To cope with daily life expenditure, workers have to rely on overtime work for extra income. In peak season, it is common to work consecutively for 30 days with only 1 day off. Some respondents mentioned that the monthly overtime hours in peak season could reached to 160 hours which seriously violated the Chinese labour law. Moreover, in order to cover up the actual working hours, overtime time is paid in guise of bonus and the attendance record is marked on papers instead of computer system.

In the report, 60% of the respondents said that they could not refuse overtime work, because the basic wage is too low. This unreasonable salary system also forms a loophole for management to control and penalize workers through overtime work. For example, they can deliberately reduce the overtime works of workers who have complained about factory problems or largely increase the productive target of workers which pushed them to resign voluntarily.

  • Harsh management style, workers are forced to apply leave and arranged to support other factories

Since the suicides in 2010, the working condition of Foxconn is concerned by the public. However, the respondents reflected that issues such as verbal violence, sexual harassment, difficulty to apply leave, inadequate breaks still exist in the factories. Some workers were forced to apply leave because of inadequate business orders in the production lines. On the other hand, the factory reduce the cost of recruitment of new workers by arranging workers to work for other posts or other factories under the name of production support or workforce relocation. The factories do not compensate for the workers and signed any agreements with workers under such reassignment. Most ridiculously, 20,000 Foxconn workers were sent to work for another Apple supplier Quanta in Shanghai and Jiangsu to support their production, when these workers were vulnerable to occupational diseases and injuries as they did not sign any agreement with the new factories.

  • Trade Union is just a decoration, collective bargaining becomes a mere formality

The Foxconn trade union claims that the membership rate is over 90% of the total workforce, but the representation of union is always doubted. The trade union chairperson Chen Peng was the former Public Affairs manager, who is also believed as the confidant of Terry Guo. It is easy to understand why workers lack confidence of the union. On 4 February 2013, Financial Times has reported that Foxconn would organize direct union elections soon but eventually the company denied the promise. Respondents often described Foxconn trade union as merely a “decoration”. Workers have no way to apply for candidacy in the union election. Some respondents said that managers asked them to sign on blank ballot.

In 2009, Foxconn has signed a collective contract with the union, claiming that the two parties will set up collective negotiation on wages every year. Yet, the remuneration of Foxconn workers has stagnated for many years, and 45.8% respondents said that they have never heard of collective wage negotiations. It somehow reflects the Foxconn union has not adequately represented the workers interests.

Since the Foxconn Suicides in 2010, Foxconn Technology Group promised openly the remediation of the poor working conditions in its factories. However, workers still do not have the chance to enjoy the hard work they contribute. SACOM urges Foxconn Technology Group to:

1. change the pay system and increase the basic wage to a reasonable level
2. restore food and housing allowances and others bonuses to workers
3. follow the Chinese labour law and restrict the average weekly working hours to 44 hours with at least one day off per week
4. improve the management culture and establish a harmonious labour-employee relationship
5. fulfill commitments of union elections and respect the rights of frontline workers to participate trade unions so that union can truly represent the interests of workers

Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour

Note: The ilabour Action Group’s research report on Foxconn wages, working hours and management can be downloaded at http://www.ilabour.net/html/zhuanti/3780.html (Chinese only)