Thursday, August 30, 2012

Are Real Changes Occurring at Foxconn??? - FLA vs. SACOM and CLW

by Erin Wigger and Peter Schnall

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), China Labor Watch (CLW) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) disagree on what Foxconn has accomplished over the past several months in response to the FLA’s audit of working conditions at Foxconn in March 29th, 2012 and its subsequent report on changes at the plant published on August 21st.

It appears as though there were some changes at Foxconn – the most important being a reduction in hours worked (although not all workers were happy with the changes in work hours as it resulted in a reduction in wages), the elimination of dispatch work, and an increase in wages. However, as SACOM points out below, many promised changes have not yet occurred.

For your convenience we’ve taken the liberty of extracting excerpts from each of these reports (see below). Links can be found to the full reports at the bottom.

From the FLA:

Remediation Highlights:

“Many physical changes to improve worker health and safety have been made since the investigation, including the enforcement of ergonomic breaks, changing the design of workers’ equipment to guard against repetitive stress injuries, updating of maintenance policies to ensure equipment is working properly, and testing of emergency protective equipment like eyewashes and sprinklers. Foxconn has also engaged consultants to provide health and safety training for all employees."

"The most significant commitments made by Foxconn following FLA’s original investigation were related to union elections and worker representation, and compliance with Chinese labor law regarding hours of work.  Deadlines for remediation of these items continue through July 2013; however, Foxconn has taken initial steps toward fulfilling these commitments."

"The company has reduced hours to 60 per week (including overtime) with the goal of reaching full compliance with the Chinese legal limit of 40 hours per week plus an average of 9 hours of overtime per week while protecting worker pay."

"Foxconn also helped to extend unemployment insurance coverage for migrant workers working in Shenzhen by advocating for legislation that will allow them to access the unemployment insurance scheme, effective January 1, 2013. This change has implications not only for those employed at Foxconn, but for all other migrant workers in Shenzhen."

"Significant improvements were found regarding Foxconn’s internship program, which affects all Foxconn facilities. The company now ensures that student interns do not work overtime; that their work has a more direct connection to their field of study; and they understand that they are free to terminate the internship if and when they wish.  At the time of verification there were no interns at the Guanlan and Chengdu facilities; there were, however, 46 interns at Longhua and implementation could be verified at this facility through worker interviews."


"Foxconn and Apple are carrying out the robust remediation plan developed following FLA’s investigation, published on March 28, 2012. Over the past three months, steady progress has been made at the three facilities employing an estimated 178,000 workers, and all remediation items due within the timeframe have been completed, with others ahead of schedule."

"Some of the most challenging action itemssuch as compliance with Chinese labor law regarding hours of work – are yet to come, and FLA will continue to engage with Apple and Foxconn to monitor and verify progress.”


“In its report, the FLA trumpets the speedy progress at Foxconn in remediating widespread labour rights violations. However the FLA has overstated the improvements at Foxconn. Firstly, most of the actions completed by Foxconn are changes at the policy level only, but few substantial changes in labour practices were found at this stage. Secondly, Foxconn has deliberately delayed implementing many of the actions called for in the remediation plan, even those that are almost cost-free. Thirdly, workers have had no opportunity to participate in the remedial action process. SACOM has repetitively demanded democratic trade unions at Foxconn as an indispensable step in reforming its labour practices."

"Last May, SACOM issued an investigative report on Foxconn’s labour practices in its Shenzhen and Zhengzhou factories, Sweatshops are good for Apple and Foxconn, but not for workers. Apart from a halt in the abusive use of student workers, no significant progress was observed. In April, we found that workers were still working up to 80 hours per month in overtime. Frontline management continued to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers, including forcing workers to write confession letters, read out these confession letters to the co-workers, clean the toilets and perform other menial labour. Workers still had little knowledge about the kinds of chemicals they were using."
"SACOM reiterates that factory inspection alone cannot eliminate labour rights violations. A democratic trade union trusted by workers is the most sustainable solution towards decent working conditions.”

From CLW:

“FLA just released a status report of the improvement at three factories of Foxconn. This report is detailed and comprehensive, with full access and resources in the investigation. However, China Labor Watch holds three concerns in response to the report:

1. In that report, FLA successfully shifted the responsibility for Apple by blaming Foxconn for the previous unsatisfying working conditions in those factories. In fact, Apple has the responsibility and resource to improve the labor conditions of workers.

2. The harsh working conditions are by no means isolated to just Foxconn but exist throughout Apple's supply chain. However, that report only focused on Foxconn factories. It is Apple's entire supply chain system that should be responsible for the squeezing of workers. 

3. Although the working hours at Foxconn have been reduced to less than 60 hours per week, the intensity of the hourly work has been increased. According to our follow-up investigation, the workers have to complete the workload of 66 hours before within 60 hours now per week. As a result, the workers get lower wages but have to work much harder and they are not satisfied with the current situation.”


Monday, August 27, 2012

Poll shows 3 in 4 at work in U.S. are stressed

by Chicago Tribune Staff
August 26, 2012

"According to an annual survey by Harris Interactive, 73 percent of Americans are stressed at work. The top source of stress, felt by 11 percent of survey respondents, is low wages. For women, that rises to 14 percent. The next irritants are annoying co-workers (10 percent); commuting (9 percent); workload (9 percent); and a job outside a chosen career (8 percent). But workers' fear of losing their job dropped to 4 percent, from 9 percent in 2011.

Still, "anxiety among employees reduces productivity, lessens job satisfaction, lowers morale and has a negative impact on health," survey spokesman John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College, which commissioned the survey, said in a statement.

"Workplace stress costs U.S. employers billions, and it's critical that both employer and employee take action to reduce this epidemic.

"Whether you've been in a career for 20 years or are just starting out, stay current on new trends, learn practical skills and consider choosing a field of study that will translate into a job in a growth industry like health care," Swartz said.

Among Americans with high school diplomas or less education, 14 percent of those surveyed ranked low pay as the top stressor, followed by annoying co-workers (12 percent). College graduates ranked workload (13 percent) and low pay (11 percent) Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Harris Interactive surveyed 898 employed adults ages 18 and older by phone from June 21 to July 1. Results were weighted for age, sex, geographic region and race where necessary to align them with the population. And yet 26 percent of respondents said nothing stressed them out at their job, up from 21 percent in 2011.

But 37 percent of the stressless had a household income of more than $100,000."

Stressed for success?

Here are the top causes of workplace stress from the recently released Harris Interactive poll.

1. Low pay 11%
2. Annoying co-workers 10%
3. Commuting 9%
4. Workload 9%
5. Working outside chosen career 8%
6. Work-life balance 5%
7. Limited opportunity for advancement 5%
8. The boss 4%

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

SACOM Open Letter to the Guangdong Government

Readers please find below an open letter from scholars throughout the world concerned about recent cases of harassment and repression of grass roots Chinese NGO's (non-governmental organizations) supporting labor rights in China. Dr. Paul Landsbergis and I would like to add our names to the list of scholars below.

Here is the letter:


We are a diverse group of scholars who both study and support labor movements around the world. Many of us have conducted extensive research on labor issues in China, and we are united in our belief that the future of China and its working class is of incredible global significance.

Many government and union leaders in Guangdong have recently accepted the idea that strikes are normal economic manifestations of labor-capital conflict in a marketized economy, and should be addressed through mediation and collective bargaining. Currently there is a growing practice of democratic elections of trade union officers at the enterprise level in many places in Guangdong. These trends reflect the industrial labor relations principles that have guided many countries during periods of industrialization and marketization.

We are therefore very concerned to learn about the recent cases of harassment and repression against grass-roots labor NGOs in Guangdong, as reported in the Southern Metropolis Daily, the Guangzhou Daily, the South China Morning Post, and the Wall Street Journal. These events contradict the policy direction of the new regulations in Guangdong facilitating NGO registration, and create new difficulties for the NGOs to develop.

In our view, NGOs play an important role in responding to the pressing needs – including economic, social, and educational – of the large populations of migrant workers. Trade unions have not historically been able to address this wide range of problems, and thus NGOs have a critical function in addressing worker issues. This is as true in many foreign countries as in China.

Therefore, we strongly oppose recent actions that have constrained the activities of many NGOs in Guangdong, and encourage the government to preserve the space necessary for these groups to continue their valuable work.


· Maria Ahlsten, University of Bristol, UK
· Mansueto F. de Almeida Jr., Brazilian Institute of Applied Economic Research, BR
· Judy Ancel, University of Missouri-Kansas City, US
· Joel Andreas, Johns Hopkins University, US
· Mark Anner, Pennsylvania State University, US
· Richard Appelbaum, University of California-Santa Barbara, US
· Bae Kiu Sik, Korean Labor Institute, SK
· Frauka Banse, Kassel University, DE
· Thomas Barnes, University of Sydney, AU
· John Barry, Queen’s University Belfast, IE
· Tim Bartley, Ohio State University, US
· Joe Berry, Labor Educator, US
· Monica Bielski Boris, University of Illinois, US
· Joshua Bloom, University of California-Los Angeles, US
· Edna Bonacich, University of California-Riverside, US
· Eileen Boris, University of California-Santa Barbara, US
· Michael Burawoy, University of California-Berkeley, US
· Mick Carpenter, University of Warwick, UK
· Anita Chan, University of Technology-Sydney, AU
· Chris Chan, City University of Hong Kong, HK
· Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts, US
· Chang Dae-oup, School of African and Oriental Studies, UK
· Joseph Cheng, City University of Hong Kong, HK
· Ian Cook, University of Exeter, UK
· Kin-man Chan, Chinese University of Hong Kong, HK
· Chan Shun Hing, Lingnan University, HK
· Chan Sze Chi, Hong Kong Baptist University, HK
· Thomas Chan, Poly U Hong Kong Community College, HK
· Jennifer Jihye Chun, University of Toronto, CA
· Chiu Yu Bin, National Pingtung University of Education, TW
· Chong Yiu Kwong,  The Hong Kong Institute of Education, HK
· Yin-wah Chu, Hong Kong Baptist University, HK
· Paul Clark, Pennsylvania State University, US
· Simon Clarke, Warwick University, UK
· Ellen Dannin, Pennsylvania State University, US
· Surya Deva, City University of Hong Kong, HK
· Manfred Elfstrom, Cornell University, US
· Tony Elger, University of Warwick, UK
· Regina M. Enjuto, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
· Cynthia Estlund, New York University, US
· Peter Evans, University of California-Berkeley, US
· Ruth Felder, University of Buenos Aires, AR
· Eli Friedman, Cornell University, US
· Rolf Geffken, Labour Institute ICOLAIR, Labour Law Office, Hamburg, DE
· Sebastian Guzman, New School for Social Research, US
· Iam-Chong Ip, Lingnan University, HK
· Paul Jobin, University of Paris-Diderot, FR
· Brigitte Hamm, University of Duisburg-Essen, DE
· Gillian Hewitson, University of Sydney, AU
· Ho Chi Kan, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, HK
· Jude Howell, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
· Elaine Hui, Kassel University, DE
· Jenny Jungehülsing, Kassel University, DE
· Michelle Kaminski, Michigan State University, US
· Louise Lamphere, University of New Mexico, US
· Ching Kwan Lee, University of California-Los Angeles, US
· Lee Chun Wing, Poly U Hong Kong Community College, HK
· Chun-Yi Lee, University of Nottingham, UK
· Parry Leung, Community College of City University of Hong Kong, HK
· Kevin Lin, University of Technology Sydney, AU
· Stephanie Luce, City University of New York
· Luk Tak Chuen, Chinese University of Hong Kong, HK
· Sebastian Matthes, Kassel University, DE
· Jamie McCallum, Middlebury College, US
· Ruth Milkman, City University of New York, US
· Phil Mizen, Warwick University, UK
· Adam Mrozowicki, University of Wroclaw PL
· Carolina Bank Munoz, Brooklyn College, US
· Theo Nichols, Cardiff University, UK
· Bruce Nissen, Florida International University, US
· Stephen Philion, St. Cloud State University, US
· Nancy Plankey-Videla, Texas A&M University, US
· Tim Pringle, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK
· Gretchen Purser, Syracuse University, US
· Nora Räthzel, Umeå University, SE
· Chris Rhomberg, Fordham University, US
· Manuel Rosaldo, University of California-Berkeley, US
· Robert Ross, Clark University, US
· Jean Philippe Sapinski, University of Victoria, CN
· Vishwas Satgar, University of Witwatersrand, SA
· Christian Scheper, Kassel University, DE
· Christoph Scherrer, Kassel University, Germany
· Maike Schoelmerich,  University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, SZ
· Andrew Schrank, University of New Mexico, US
· Denisse Roca Servat, Arizona State University, US
· Patricia Simpson, Loyola University of Chicago, US
· Kaxton Siu, Australian National University, AU
· Alvin So,  Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, HK
· Mirana May Szeto, University of Hong Kong, HK
· Tang Lynn, University of Warwick, UK
· Chris Tilly, University of California-Los Angeles, US
· Todd Vachon, University of Connecticut, US
· Kim Voss, University of California-Berkeley, US
· Daniel Vukovich, University of Hong Kong, HK
· Wang Ting, City University of Hong Kong, HK
· Nina Ulbrich, Kassel University, DE
· Edward Webster, University of Witwatersrand, SA
· Frido Wenten, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK
· Michelle Williams, University of Witwatersrand, SA
· Nobuyuki Yamada, Komazawa University, JP
· Ken Yau, City University of Hong Kong, HK
· Alex Zukas, National University, US
· Yun-chung Chen, Baptist University of Hong Kong, HK
· Lu Zhang, Temple University, US
· Phil Taylor, University of Strathclyde, UK
· Mark Selden, Cornell University, US
· Frank Moulaert, Catholic University of Leuven, BE
· Anthony Friend, Lancaster University, UK
· Liam Campling, University of London, UK
· Jeffrey Henderson, University of Bristol, UK
· Zillah Eisenstein, Ithaca College, US
· Jenny Chan, University of London, UK
· David Primrose, University of Sydney, AU
· Harriet Bradley, University of Bristol, UK
· Andy Danford, University of the West of England, UK
· Andrew Smith, Bradford University School of Management, UK
· Dorothy J. Solinger, University of Califonia, Irvine, US
· Connie Ulasewicz, San Francisco State University, US
· Karen Brodkin, University of California-Los Angeles, US
· Sanford M. Jacoby, University of California-Los Angeles, US
· Jeff Hyman, University of Aberdeen, UK
· Purnima Bose, Indiana University, US
· Gregory Schwartz, University of Bath, UK
· Richard A. Walker, University of California-Berkeley, US
· Immanuel Ness, City University of New York, US
· Miguel Martinez Lucio, University of Manchester, UK
· Richard McIntyre, University of Rhode Island, US
· Shae Garwood, University of Western Australia, AU
· Peter L. Schnall, University of California, US
· Paul A. Landsbergis, State University of New York-Downstate, US