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Foxconn Workers Getting Raise With Apple Subsidies 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the damage-control dept.
hackingbear writes "Workers at Taiwanese electronic outsourcing manufacturer Foxconn are getting a pay raise after a series of 13 suicides, including three in three consecutive days. According to an article by state-run newspaper China Daily, Apple concluded that the main cause of the suicides is low wages. (The media has also attributed the suicides to a variety of other factors — everything from the semi-military style of management, to long overtime, to China's one-child policy, and Foxconn paying too much compensation to the family of suicide workers, thereby encouraging copycat suicides.) Apple plans to subsidize raises using its own products (Google translation; Chinese original here) — the first one being the iPad. This would raise the outsourcing cost from 2.3% to 3% of the iPad's sales price. The article does not say the amount of the raise per worker, but it is rumored to be about 20%, according to other Chinese news sources."
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Foxconn Workers Getting Raise With Apple Subsidies

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  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:13PM (#32410208) Journal
    Because despite the fact that FoxConn make stuff for all sorts of people in the consumer electronics world, all the bile and invective seems to fall on Apple's shoulders.

    No doubt, Apple actually trying to help will be seen negatively too - let's see if any of the subsequent comments say so (my money's on yes...). Honestly, the anyone-but-apple brigade make the fanboys look calm, collected, and sane.

    Simon
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:16PM (#32410238) Journal

    Exactly! These people were building products for Dell too (among other well-known computer companies). Wonder if we'll see Dell step up to the plate and offer a larger percentage of their profits to these folks as a pay increase? (I'm betting not.)

  • What about.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JonJ (907502) <jon.jahren@gmail.com> on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:19PM (#32410266)
    The other companies that are getting their components from Foxconn? Are they doing anything?
  • by phorm (591458) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:25PM (#32410338) Journal

    Foxconn also sells branded mainboards of their own, etc. How about they just increase the pay at their factories, and up prices a buck or two? Two bucks means nothing to me, if they want to pass that onto the consumer I'm willing to open my wallet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:26PM (#32410362)

    More important than the fact that Foxconn makes electronics for just about everyone, is that these suicides aren't statistically surprising. I don't have the numbers, but I recall some commenters on previous Slashdot stories working through the math - basically, the factory employs tens of thousands (?) of workers, and China already has a high suicide rate. The suicide rate in this factory, per capita, was actually *lower* than China as a whole.

    I believe there were seven or eight suicides when that other article appeared on Slashdot. Now with 14 the factory's suicide rate is probably on par with China as a whole. Wake me up when we've got 40 or 60 suicides.

    Oh, and presumably the outrage comes from the fact that our corporations are profiting from the despair of mistreated factory workers. To that I say - NO SHIT. Is there anyone who thought these Chinese factories *weren't* sweatshops that mistreat workers?

  • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:29PM (#32410404)

    I'm under the impression that the workers there already make relatively more than most similar jobs, and a 20% raise doesn't seem like it will make much of a life-changing difference for anyone (especially if they don't have time to spend it :P)

    And just how far can money go to compensate you for hellish working conditions?

    So why not give them some more breaks / shorter hours each day?

    G.

  • by Selfbain (624722) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:32PM (#32410444)
    It's not Apple's plant, it's Foxconn's. I like how everyone is blaming Apple first for the suicides caused by another company and then when they try and fix a problem they didn't cause, people blast them for that too.
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:35PM (#32410474) Homepage Journal

    Because despite the fact that FoxConn make stuff for all sorts of people in the consumer electronics world, all the bile and invective seems to fall on Apple's shoulders.

    Probably because Apple products are 2-3x more expensive than those of their competitors. It's well-known that Apple's profit margins are extremely high compared to their competitors, and that makes people think that perhaps Apple is a bit greedy.

    I'm not saying it's deserved or anything like that, but I can definitely see why people think that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:39PM (#32410502)
    You lagh but here in Shenzhen things hard. Work long days for only enouf to live and send some back to vilage to family there. Work 16 hour day at least and so tired and sleep in bunkroom with 15 other work. We know how much ipad and zune and other cost, not make us happy. we happy Apple to treat us fair!
  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:41PM (#32410516)

    Why should we let Apple (or any other company) abdicate responsibility for their supply chain? If Apple chooses to work with Foxconn, then Apple is on the hook for ensuring Foxconn is a reputable and humane supplier.

    Or is it okay to let a company like Apple accrue the benefits of outsourcing (i.e. lower prices, more flexible manufacturing, etc.) while ignoring negative consequences (i.e. environmental damage, inhumane working conditions, etc.)?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:45PM (#32410558)

    No you aren't.

    Everyone will use someone else and Foxconn will be cease to be an option, even for you.

  • by butterflysrage (1066514) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:47PM (#32410578)

    ok, but why are they working massive overtime? Is it because the job requires them to ("do it or you're fired") or is it the pay that requires them to ("If I don't pick up 6 extra shifts I can't pay my rent next month").

    While the 20% will not help the first case, it would make quite the impact on the second...

  • by am 2k (217885) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:51PM (#32410636) Homepage

    Since all middlemen's shares of the price are percentage-based, raising the price two dollars at the factory probably means that the product will cost an additional $10 or more in the stores

  • Re:By comparison (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pandrijeczko (588093) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:52PM (#32410646)

    ...and that's the problem with the good old "globalAmericanisation" plague inflicting our planet - this idea that if a statistic says it's "within acceptable limits" then everything is okay and nobody needs to do anything about it.

    This is why we now have things like huge interest rates and high insurance premiums - because in both cases, there is an "accepted" level of loss or fraud that nobody in the organisation does anything about, apart from making it more expensive for honest people who have to pay increased charges to cover those losses. There's *NO* concept of 100% anymore, everything is "95% of all calls answered in 10 seconds" or "kills 99.9% of all known germs"...

    As long as only 90 Americans in 100,000 commits suicide, or an equivalent number of Chinese, then we can all sit back on our fat backsides because *IT'S THE NORM!"

    It's pathetic really...

  • Re:By comparison (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:55PM (#32410688) Journal
    Nonsense. How can you compare workers with the general population?
  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday May 31, 2010 @04:55PM (#32410690)

    Apple (or any other company)

    Care to try again genius?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @05:07PM (#32410844)

    Since all middlemen's shares of the price are percentage-based, raising the price two dollars at the factory probably means that the product will cost an additional $10 or more in the stores

    Then lets get rid of the middlemen. This keeps getting better with every new idea!

  • Apple invests heavily in marketing. The focus of their marketing is that they are a different company, and they target leftish artist, hipster types. They don't portray themselves as being far different from other companies interested only in the bottom dollar. We aren't surprised when a large company like Dell does business with a large factory in China that is plagued by suicides. We are surprised, not the /. crowd but consumers and their target base in general, that Apple is there, too. That's what makes the difference.

    If Tiger Woods had portrayed himself and marketed himself as the "Bad Boy, Rockstar" of golf, the press related to his affairs would have been different. Because he had branded himself as the good, loving husband and a stand-up role model for children, the press latched onto it more because fo the hypocrisy.

    Same with Apple.
  • by Selfbain (624722) on Monday May 31, 2010 @05:20PM (#32411014)

    Why should we let Apple (or any other company) abdicate responsibility for their supply chain?

    I'm not saying we should. It's just disingenuous to call it "Apple's plant" which I've seen repeated over and over again. Lots of companies contract Foxconn and Apple seems to be the only one trying to fix the problem so why are they the one being singled out for criticism.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday May 31, 2010 @05:30PM (#32411138)

    You do realize pretty much every computer on the planet has components from Foxconn in it ... right?

    I guaranty you that the computer you used to post has components they make in it.

    Unless you plan on no longer using a car, your PC, probably your TV and several other devices, you won't be doing a damn thing to 'stop the problem'.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Monday May 31, 2010 @05:40PM (#32411258)

    Nuff said.

    When you outsource to foreign lands that force workers to sleep on the assembly lines, and in the factories... for 65 cents an hour, you're supporting slavery. (This is the common work condition of chinese labor)

    I'm sorry. Apple wanted to cheat the economic system by not hiring Americans, because we have lives and high expenses due to the cost of living in America. Why pay Americans who only want to work and have a home and healthcare, when you can hire Chinese slaves who are easily replaced no matter how many of them commit suicide.

    Fuck every corporation that sold America out.

  • Re:By comparison (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eulernet (1132389) on Monday May 31, 2010 @05:41PM (#32411282)

    The chinese don't commit suicide because they are too busy working overtime.

    Seriously, what is this pitiful statistics you are trying to use ?

    There have been 13 suicides at the working place, and, to my knowledge, suicides at the working place are very rare in our western countries.
    Frankly, if you work 18/7 and spend the rest of your time to sleep and eat, your life means pretty nothing after a few months. And only naive people believe that they can get rich by their work.

    BTW, in France, there have been 37 suicides in 2 years in the biggest telecom company: France Telecom, mainly because the company is changing (FT is becoming a private company, and I can assure you that it means a lot more work for some people there, who are accustomed to doing nothing !).
    In France, we count the suicides both at work and at home, as long as you are working for the company.

  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday May 31, 2010 @05:52PM (#32411412) Homepage Journal

    ``Why should we let Apple (or any other company) abdicate responsibility for their supply chain?''

    Well, I see it like this: Apple (or any other company) wants something manufactured. So they approach some manufacturers to make them an offer. Foxconn (or any other bidder) says "We can do it for so and so much." Among all the bidders, Foxconn has the most attractive offer, and Apple believes they will be able to make good on it, so they sign the deal.

    Is that all there is to it? Well, pretty much yes. If Apple didn't trust Foxconn enough, they probably wouldn't sign the deal. This trust can cover anything from fear that Foxconn might go belly up before having delivered, to causing negative press for Apple. In the end, there is no real way for Apple to be certain that such events will happen, or will not happen, if they sign the deal with any of the bidders. The best they can do is make a risk assessment, pick the winner of the bid, encourage them to do the right thing, work with them to help them do the right thing, and help fix things if things still go wrong. And it seems to me that this is exactly what they are doing.

    ``If Apple chooses to work with Foxconn, then Apple is on the hook for ensuring Foxconn is a reputable and humane supplier.''

    I think that's debatable. Certainly, you may _like_ Apple to try its best to ensure that every supplier they work with is reputable and humane. And maybe they are doing that. They are, after all, paying extra to support the plan to curb the suicides. But even if Apple do their best, there is only so much they can do. They don't control Foxconn, and, last I checked, Apple didn't have a standing army or a special ops unit that could force Foxconn to do what Apple would like them to do. So it's really Foxconn that has to fix things - Apple can only encourage them, help them, and, if that fails, walk away from Foxconn and distance themselves from Foxconn's practices should Foxconn not clean up its act. So I really thing "ensuring" is too strong. Apple can't do that, so it's unreasonable to expect that of them.

  • by stbill79 (1227700) on Monday May 31, 2010 @06:03PM (#32411524)

    Remember this story the next time you try to defend our all-mighty corporations' choice of offshoring every single job possible with the simple-minded argument of American workers just can't compete; they need to toughen up, take a lower standard of living, work harder, become better educated, etc, etc...

    In a globalized world, there will always exist a shit-hole even worse than the last. Uless your idea of being more competitive really means accepting conditions so poor that death seems a valid alternative to a rather significant portion of the work-force, you might want to start thinking of a better argument.

  • Re:By comparison (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2010 @06:48PM (#32411970)

    If they live, eat and sleep at the working place, where else would the suicides take place?

  • by oddTodd123 (1806894) on Monday May 31, 2010 @06:49PM (#32411986)

    The suicide rate among foxconn workers is not only lower than for the population of China in general, but also lower than every US state. Every suicide is a tragic event, but I'm not buying the contention that their jobs are driving them to do it.

    Suicide rates vary widely between different population segments; you cannot fairly compare the suicide rate of factory workers in Shenzhen to the suicide rate of rural farmers, for example. The better comparison would be the suicide rate of Foxconn employees to the suicide rates at other electronics manufacturing, and I'd think if other factories had similar suicide rates we might not be hearing so much about this in the news.

    While these suicides may be due to statistical chance, do you not feel it is worth it to investigate possible causes and show some empathy for factory workers making $100/month working 100 hours/week? Let me provide an analogous real world comparison: Helix High School in La Mesa, California, had four teacher-student sex scandals in as many years. Given the sheer number of high schools in the United States, it is probably within statistical reason to expect a single high school to coincidentally have four sex scandals. Should parents and the community write the problem off, or should they look at their faculty policies and other factors that might be contributing to the problem and see if there is something they can do to prevent future sex scandals?

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @05:27AM (#32416104) Homepage Journal

    Is it lower than -workplace- suicides in any other part of the world?

    The number never included suicides at home!

  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999 @ g m a i l.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @12:58PM (#32420334)

    A huge ripoff to who?

    It's an expensive device, for sure (and I don't have one), but if it does exactly what its purchaser wants, is that a ripoff?

    Like you say, a Dell Mini 10/9 can provide that function for you, but what if I don't want a permanent keyboard? Or I want a tablet-shape?

    Right now, the iPad would be excellent purely as a textbook reader - just my organic chemistry book alone is 1600 pages and is a severe PITA to carry around, so for that I would much prefer the form factor of the iPad over a netbook.

    Based on your figures the price premium is £164, which is quite a chunk of change but I expect that to come down with revision 2 - I'd hardly call it a "huge ripoff", but I am also not going to claim it is right for everyone.

  • Re:By comparison (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lars T. (470328) <{moc.liamelgoog} {ta} {regearT.sraL}> on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @04:32PM (#32423450) Journal

    The chinese don't commit suicide because they are too busy working overtime.

    Seriously, what is this pitiful statistics you are trying to use ?

    There have been 13 suicides at the working place

    There have been 13 suicides at the Foxconn complex which also contains free housing for the employees.

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