Update from Foxconn: Salaries Rising May Signify A New Chapter

courtesy of chorusandecho.com, art by Nikki Cook

Responding to both insider and media allegations of egregious workers’ rights abuses at the Foxconn factories, a galaxy of immense manufacturing behemoths across China and responsible for a huge amount of the world’s electronics manufacturing, Foxconn officials announced recently that worker salaries would be substantially raised. David Barboza reports for The New York Times:

Foxconn said that salaries for many workers would immediately jump by 16 to 25 percent, to about $400 a month, before overtime.

The company also said it would reduce overtime hours at its factories.

Labor rights groups say that over the years, many Foxconn plants have violated Chinese labor laws by pushing workers to endure excessive amounts of overtime.

Since a rash of suicides at the Shenzhen Focxonn factory garnered widespread attention last year, sensitive questions of worker mistreatment and the ethics of companies such as Apple and Dell who rely on Foxconn labor have been brought to an international stage. Perhaps reacting to recent criticism—even some following the death of CEO Steve Jobs—Apple has instigated the inquiries that may have led to these changes in Foxconn policy.

Apple announced last Monday that the Fair Labor Association, a nonprofit group, would provide independent audits of its supplier factories in China and elsewhere. Apple said the group’s findings would be made public. The association began inspecting Foxconn operations in China this week.

Apple and Foxconn, which is based in Taiwan, have strongly denied allegations that the workers are treated poorly. But Apple has acknowledged in its own audits that some of its suppliers in China violate Apple’s own code of conduct, with instances of child labor, forced overtime and unsafe working conditions and evidence that employees are sometimes exposed to hazardous and toxic chemicals.

The plight of migrants working in factories in Southern China is a long-standing issue, documented in such works as Shu Haoluns 2001 documentary Struggle, but these recent developments may represent a new chapter for this ongoing battle.

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