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iPhone-Maker Rallies Workers After China Suicides

Young workers who normally spend their days assembling iPhones and other high-tech gadgets packed a stadium at their massive campus Wednesday, waving pompoms and shouting slogans at a rally to raise morale following a string of suicides at the company's heavily regimented factories.

The outreach to workers shows how the normally secretive Foxconn Technology Group has been shaken by the suicides and the bad press they have attracted.

"For a long period of time I think we were kind of blinded by our success," said Louis Woo, special assistant to Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn's parent company. "We were kind of caught by surprise."

The company has already raised wages, hired counselors and installed safety nets on buildings to catch would-be jumpers. Other changes include job rotation so workers can try different tasks and grouping dorm assignments by home province so workers don't feel so isolated.

However, Woo acknowledged there will be challenges in preventing such tragedies in a work force of 920,000 spread across 16 factories in China, all of which are to have morale boosting rallies. Woo said he expected the company will grow to 1.3 million workers sometime next year.

"No matter how hard we try, such things will continue to happen," he said.

The rally Wednesday took place at Foxconn's mammoth industrial park in Shenzhen, which employs 300,000 and where most of the suicides have taken place. The latest suicide — the 12th this year — occurred Aug. 4 when a 22-year-old woman jumped from her factory dormitory in eastern Jiangsu province.

Twenty thousand workers dressed in costumes ranging from cheerleader outfits to Victorian dresses filled the stadium at the factory complex, which was decorated with colorful flags bearing messages such as "Treasure your life, love your family." The workers chanted similar slogans and speakers described their career development at Foxconn.

As they filed toward the stadium for the rally, a flood of workers headed in the other direction to begin the night shift.

"In the past, from the time we started work until when we finished, we would not really have a break. But now we've been given time to rest," said 18-year-old worker Huang Jun. "If I can get off work early enough and have a little time for fun, then I feel a bit better and less stressed out."

Other workers said they wanted Foxconn to organize more recreational activities such as sports or karaoke.

Woo said it was common for workers to have 80 hours a month of overtime, but Foxconn was aiming to reduce the workload and become the first company in the industry to keep overtime to a maximum of 36 hours a month — as required by Chinese law.

Foxconn, part of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., has built itself into the world's largest contract maker of electronics by delivering quality products on thin profit margins for customers including Apple Inc., Sony Corp., Dell Inc., Nokia Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Labor activists, however, say that success has come in part from driving workers hard by enforcing a rigid management style, operating a too-fast assembly line and requiring excessive overtime. The company denies that it treats employees inhumanely.

The troubles at Foxconn came to light amid broader labor unrest in China and highlighted Chinese workers' growing dissatisfaction with the low wages and pressure-cooker working conditions that helped turn the country into an international manufacturing powerhouse.

One activist said the rally Wednesday was unlikely to boost morale and does not replace the need for more thoroughgoing reforms.

"I don't think today's event is going to achieve anything except provide a bit of theater," said Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the China Labor Bulletin, a labor rights group based in Hong Kong. "Basically what Foxconn needs to do is treat its workers like decent human beings and pay them a decent wage. It's not rocket science."

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Added: Aug-21-2010 
By: jumpingforJoy
In:
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Tags: iPhone-Maker, Rallies, Workers, After, China, Suicides
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  • 1,000,000 million workers for one company making product which Americans buy.

    America is doomed by it's citizens under 30 running around catching butterflies trying to save the planet and stop global warming.

    The real life stories of Americans in trouble is growing worse everyday.

    Posted Aug-21-2010 By 

    (5) | Report

    • You can than Bush senior and Clinton for our "free trade" woes, I was hoping when little Bush came in he'd reverse that shit but hell no. Now it is so established as policy that I seriously doubt Obama would ever "change" it. Ross Perot was right, a huge sucking sound of jobs leaving America was no exaggeration.

      Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

      (4) | Report

    • Wait so you're blaming the common American youth instead of the greedy multinational corporations whose exploits allow them to make an easy profit?

      It takes two to tango, it's not just the American consumer that's at fault, but it is the so called government that allows multinational "free trade."

      There is an easy solution for this, make it unprofitable to export jobs overseas. If Walmart wants to sell cheap Chinese goods then Congress should impose high tariffs on Chinese goods. Bu More..

      Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

      (6) | Report

    • Truth.

      Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

      (0) | Report

    • Yeah,Ross was right,but it was just hard to take some
      one with ears bigger than dumbo the elephant,and a
      daughter that looked like a fucking space alien,too
      serious.Cheers Zardoz003!

      Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

      (0) | Report

    • The multinational corporations have programed the butterfly catchers in the millions over the last 20 years.

      The two are "tango'ing" and have been for far too long.

      Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

      (1) | Report

  • Comment of user 'Incredulous' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • That's the media version. The real truth is that is that they committed suicide because it's a slave country able to dominate sales by having a lower price via slave labor. The survivors are all kissing ass cuz they know they are headed for the same. Meanwhile, America let's it's free trade guard down forcing the American working class to lower their standard of living rather than tariffing the hell out of imports which is what politics is supposed to do. But Obama never had a political science More..

    Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

    (0) | Report

  • Comment of user 'rclark951' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Comment of user '2daloo' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • "Factory dorm"? Sounds like living as a machine. I'd kill myself too, in those conditions. These workers need to unionize to get better conditions. There is strength in numbers.

    Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

    (0) | Report

  • How could one feel accomplished in life, knowing their only contribution is a cheap, manufactured item used to give western teens a faux-sense of identity and brand loyalty? I'd rather be dead, myself...

    Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

    (0) | Report

  • I bought a Dell not to long ago and regret it now. Come to find out they ship them with virus' dug so deep in the computer it's near impossible to get rid of them and then seeing all those jobs lost to China makes me sick. Apple I wouldn't dare buy anyways, their products are complete rip offs designed to milk you for as much money as possible.

    What really sucks is that now you have no choice but to buy your electronics from China/Taiwan. That is the only place anything is made anymore.

    Posted Aug-22-2010 By 

    (-1) | Report