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Mistreated Foxconn Brazil Workers Threaten Strike 201

An anonymous reader writes "More bad news comes from Apple's iDevice manufacturing partner Foxconn that is sure to ruffle the feathers of Apple fans. From the story: 'Factory workers at a Foxconn plant in Jundiaí, Brazil are complaining of overcrowded buses, poor food and a lack of water and have threatened to strike unless the issues are resolved by May 3. According to a report by Brazil's Tech Guru (Google Translation), over 2,500 Foxconn employees have complained about conditions at the factory. Workers reportedly met last Monday to raise the concerns and have given the company 10 days to address them.'"
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Mistreated Foxconn Brazil Workers Threaten Strike

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  • by colinrichardday ( 768814 ) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:11AM (#39837593)

    Workers of the world unite! The only thing you have to lose are your iPads!

    • by kyrio ( 1091003 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:45AM (#39837789) Homepage
      The striking employees won't be losing any iProducts. They can't afford them in the first place.
  • Ummm (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:12AM (#39837599)

    This plant has nothing to do with Apple. They make XBoxes.

    • It does seem like the Slashdot headline should be "Xbox workers on strike".
      • Re:Ummm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:51AM (#39837821)

        To be fair to TFS (and we might as well do, for a change of pace) it doesn't say that they do manufacture Apple products. It says that it's "Foxconn Brazil workers" (which they are), and it says that Foxconn are Apple's manufacturing partner (which they are).

        And Apple aren't completely off the hook even if these workers aren't working on their products- Foxconn have fast acquired a terrible reputation for mistreating workers, and companies are responsible for the companies they partner with. Just to straw-man it up a notch- if a company were killing orphans to make dogfood, it wouldn't be acceptable to buy beef mince from them; the defence "I'm not buying their murderous products so it's not my problem" doesn't really hold much weight.

        Still, it's interesting to know that they make Xboxes. No company should be involved in mistreating workers, and knowing the perpetrators is a good thing.

        • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @12:08PM (#39837915)

          If Apple wants to insulate itself from bad press related to the employment practices of its contract manufacturers, it could buy its own factories and employ the workers who make its products.

          There are contract manufacturers, totally capable of meeting their manufacturing requirements, that Apple could afford to buy if they wanted to. Or they could just buy the few factories that they would need.

          When they choose to do business with sweatshops to build their products, they are essentially telling us they don't care enough to dirty their hands with that manufacturing business. They don't want to think about the labor relations aspects. They just don't care that much.

          Same goes for Microshaft (whose products these particular workers actually make) and all the other big companies that use contract manufacturers instead of employing their own labor force. Little companies can legitimately say that they can't afford the investment in manufacturing capacity necessary to make their products efficiently. That's just not the case when you're making a big-ticket item that you sell by the millions.

          • Particularly Apple (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )

            For one, they have massive, massive cash reserves. With that kind of money it would be completely feasible to fund their own production lines. It is very expensive to set up production facilities, more than most people appreciate, but Apple has the cash to do it and not seriously deplete their reserves. So were it an issue that mattered to them it would be doable.

            Also it would be doable in a first world country, given Apple's large margins (how do you think they got all the cash?) It would mean smaller marg

            • The easiest way for Apple to acquire the capacity would be to just take some of their cash and buy a major contract manufacturer. Then all the manufacturing expertise comes along with the purchase. They could probably just buy Foxconn. They could easily buy Flextronics.

              But unlike Apple, there are lots of American companies that couldn't manufacture their own stuff in the USA.

            • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

              They'd make less, but still be profitable.

              Music to shareholders' ears... ;) I suspect this is the reason why the vast majority of corporations behave exactly as you'd expect from a psychopath.

            • Microsoft has the second largest stash, about $25 billion. I think they could replicate the Foxconn Brazil operation out of the interest income.

            • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

              If Apple went and did that and then gave these workers the opportunity to work and live somewhere that looks more like Cupertino than a favela, then maybe they wouldn't get so much shit over their products.

          • by GIL_Dude ( 850471 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @03:07PM (#39838897) Homepage

            When they choose to do business with sweatshops to build their products, they are essentially telling us they don't care enough to dirty their hands with that manufacturing business. They don't want to think about the labor relations aspects. They just don't care that much.

            Well, to be fair they do care. They care a lot about their PR - the same as any other company. And it is a lot easier to say, "we audit these external contract companies twice a year and have given them x months to make changes" than it is to say, "oh, yeah, we treat our employees in China and Brazil like crap. You caught us.". It is much better PR to work with these contract companies than to have your own sweatshops.

          • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @03:35PM (#39839021)

            There are entirely legitimate reasons to outsource manufacturing. If you have your own factory, and you get a burst of orders, you won't be able to keep up because you'll lack the needed capacity, leading to long lead times that cause you to lose customers. Conversely, if you get a lull in orders, your factory will be sitting idle, wasting money. Big companies outsource manufacturing to avoid those issues. It gives you a lot more flexibility.

            The problem isn't that Apple and Microsoft and all these other companies use outsourced manufacturing... it's that they outsource the manufacturing to sweatshops. They could easily pay a bit more to have their products manufactured by a company that respects workers' rights, or pay a bit more to compel companies like Foxconn to respect workers' rights. Instead, they constantly focus on driving down prices so that they can pocket a few extra tenths of a percent of profit. And if that means some Chinese workers are getting woken up in the middle of the night to work a twelve hour shift, or some Brazilians don't have access to sufficient drinking water, who cares? The executives hanging out in Silicon Valley or Redmond or wherever will still have their billions, and that's what matters.

            Hopefully the continued pressure from the media and the public will make companies like Apple push companies like Foxconn to improve conditions, but there's still a long way to go.

            • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

              Nope, the serious underlying psychopathic sickness here is, that people are cheaper and more disposable than robotics. Those same devices manufactured in western countries would largely be automated, so the plant costs considerable more to build.

              This is all about how disposable a work force is, about which countries will allow their citizens to be the most devalued.

              What's needed is a fair basis of trade, where those legislated costs are applied to products whether they are locally produced or imported.

            • There are entirely legitimate reasons to outsource manufacturing.

              They all go away when you are as large as Apple, because there's no chance that Apple can't keep a manufacturing facility busy on their own. There is absolutely no reason for Apple to not do its own manufacturing that does not involve treating people like machines.

        • Re:Ummm (Score:4, Informative)

          by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <etreufamla>> on Sunday April 29, 2012 @12:54PM (#39838153)

          I dislike Apple, quite a lot, but you have to be fair, Foxconn is an independent company, and certainly more closely associated with Intel than with Apple. It was Intel's huge contracts that made them as big as they are, and enabled them to get to other customers such as Apple.

          Regardless, It's an industry wide issue. In order to compete in the real world, you have to manufacture in China, It's not just Apple doing it:

          Here are more Foxconn customers:

                  Acer Inc. (Taiwan)[36]
                  Amazon.com (United States)[37]
                  Apple Inc. (United States)[38]
                  Cisco (United States)[39]
                  Dell (United States)[40]
                  Hewlett-Packard (United States)[41]
                  Intel (United States)[42]
                  Microsoft (United States)[43]
                  Motorola Mobility (United States)[40]
                  Nintendo (Japan)[44]
                  Nokia (Finland)[38]
                  Samsung Electronics (South Korea)[45]
                  Sony (Japan)[46]
                  Toshiba (Japan) [47]
                  Vizio (United States)[48]

          Truth is Foxconn manufactures reasonably good quality products (certainly way above average for China) and they do so incredibly cheap. That changed the industry, and it will continue to attract huge companies.

          We are all responsible: The Chinese government is the main abuser of its citizens, and wants a bigger industry, so they'll allow Foxconn to do anything they want. Most corporations are big amoral entities, and so are most governments (I don't mean this as an insult, I'm not saying they are evil or good, I'm saying they are neutral, they'll do what it takes to bring in profit, regardless of the implications). The other involved party, and the only ethical one, are the customers, the general public, and they completely lack morals too. Most members of the general public, as well as most employees at any of this huge corporations, and most functionaries in any government are ethical human beings, capable of feeling empathy and understanding right from wrong. But as a whole, as entities, they behave according to a completely different set of rules, and ethics and empathy aren't in their instruction set. So it's up to the individual to change this situation.

          If you are really pissed about it, stop working for them, stop voting for them, and stop buying from them. Complaining about it on the internet or pretending that any of this institutions, customers included, act as a whole will get you nowhere.

          • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @01:58PM (#39838527)

            One is just that they like to pretend they are better than other companies, and they seem to want to deflect from the China thing. Every product has its place of final manufacture stamped somewhere on the item and/or box. It is required by law. Most companies do that, it just says "Made in X." Apple doesn't, they prefix it with "Designed in Cupertino by Apple." They seem to want to deflect from the fact that they make things in China like everyone else since they are "different" and better.

            The bigger one though is Apple could afford to manufacture somewhere else with their hefty prices. Yes, with low margin stuff you often have to choose a cheap place to manufacture, but with more expensive items, you can afford better manufacturing. Like Denon, for example. Their lower end receivers are all made in China. However their higher end stuff is made in Japan (which is where they are located). They can afford the higher manufacturing cost since the profit per unit is higher on those higher end goods. The premium priced goods have premium manufacturing.

            Well Apple has quite high margins. This would be where that massive amount of cash they have has come from. All their devices feature premium pricing. As such they could afford to manufacture somewhere other than China. Also, with all that cash, they could afford to build their own facilities, if they needed to because the country they chose didn't have a contractor that could do it.

            Now it would mean some tradeoffs. The main one would be the big profit margins. They'd still be profitable, but not as outrageously so. The other would be that they couldn't go and roust a bunch of workers out of bed because their CEO decided he wanted a new design, they'd have to go through the normal design process that can take a bit.

            However they can do it. A company that is operating on thin margins may well not be able to. Like game consoles. If they make any money on a console, it is very little. Often companies will elect to take a loss to keep the retail price down and sell more (their profit is on the games). For that, the manufacturing cost counts and you want it done cheap. Choosing a higher priced place can kill your business.

            So that's why Apple gets less of a pass than some others. They are in a position they could do better, they just choose not to as to make more money. That's fine, that is a valid position, but it is also one people can take issue with.

            Finally, Apple is an "All the cheapest, all the time," kind of outfit. Many of the others you listed are not. Intel, for example, fabs almost all their CPUs in the US. They also have a fab in Ireland, Israel and a new one opening in China but 6 of their fabs are in the US and the newest one they are building is also there. Or Samung, who makes all their LCD panels in Korea (most higher quality LCDs are from Korea), and their final products all over (my TV is from Mexico).

            Not trying to paint Apple is the Big Baddie here or anything, just saying there is a reason they get more shit.

            • To be fair, "Designed in Cupertino by Apple." is a holdover from when they actually used to build the machines in California or the US. For a long time it instead said "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in U.S.A" or something along those lines.

            • Not trying to paint Apple is the Big Baddie here or anything, just saying there is a reason they get more shit.

              Yes. That reason is "Apple generates page views while every other tech company does not." Don't try to pretend that there's any reason beyond that as to why people focus so heavily on Apple.

              Apple generates page views. Page views generate money. People want money. Therefore, people mention Apple.

              Very simple.

            • So Microsoft is a poor company and must use labour that borders on slave labour?
          • RTFA... this is not even a strike. This is the union threatening a strike... over cafeteria menu and the bus being too crowded (by all the people wanting to come to work at Foxconn). If you remove the words "Apple" and the (gasp) Taiwanese ODM "Foxconn", there is no story here at all. Nothing.
        • To be fair to TFS (and we might as well do, for a change of pace) it doesn't say that they do manufacture Apple products.

          They do, though. To be more specific, they make iPhones (4, not 4S, for some reason) and are scheduled to start making iPads soon. Here are two links (in portuguese - feel free to use Google translate), and another one [yahoo.com] saying that's the same plant that's threatening to strike [yahoo.com]. Which is not surprising, considering it's the only plant they have in Brazil. I'm wondering if the GGP is misinformed or just providing an information disservice.

        • Why would Apple fans feathers be ruffled, as the submitter suggests because xbox workers are being treated like shit and aren't we masking how big this problem is if we only mention apple and don't mention that Microsoft and many other companies are happy to have their products made by employees who are being treated poorly?
      • After all, in bowling X designates a strike. I wonder if we could come up with a headline that is a palindrome?

        On a more serious note, I think we are going to see these types of stories a lot. Lesser developed country turns into an industrial country via low pages wages. As economy grows, workers strike for a higher wage / bigger piece of the pie.


        • My question what happens when their are no more lesser developed countries?
          • Break out the Champagne?

            We are talking about people who are moving from extreme rural poverty to better factory jobs. As there are fewer extreme poor, wages should rise. I understand that we are seeing this in China already.

            And then comes the robots. But that is a different story.

      • Re:Ummm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @12:00PM (#39837865)

        Mentioning Apple gets the page hits.

        New media is a giant vacuous whore like old media,

        • Even more locally than that, Slashdotters leap at the chance to bitch about or defend Apple. And since Slashdot is ad supported...

          I wouldn't mind, but one of the big arguments about fixating on Apple is that they're the high profile target, so they can get them to change the conditions of the workers. In some ways, it arguably worked. Okay, cool, but the problem is that topic ran cold for the last couple of months because there weren't any new Apple stories about Foxconn. So there was no new negative pr

    • You have to pretend that Foxconn only work with Apple and all other companies are good wholesome companies. Because as everyone knows mentioning Apple gets you more hits on your website.
    • This plant makes both Xboxen and iPhones. You make fifty cents anyway, though.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:14AM (#39837609)

    Brazil workers have more rights then ones in China.

    They even got mcdonalds sued and won the case over them offering only a limited free lunch menu.

    Brazil has a government-backed program requiring certain classes of employers to provide meal and grocery vouchers to low-income employees. It is not uncommon for employment benefits in developing countries to include things such as meal vouchers or housing supports that are normally not part of benefits packages in more developed countries.
    and only offering a limited menu does not fit the rules.

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:30AM (#39837701)
      This is the kind of thing that I think needs to make the news, the differences between workers' rights in different countries, especially as there are more pushes to reduce workers' rights in the United States. I'm gathering that Brazil is one nation that has gone through a similar process that the US has, with a labor movement that secured legal rights for workers. Obviously China is still figuring that out, and I am not surprised when Chinese companies run afoul of labor laws in other countries when they take production overseas, as they've never been forced to reform at home like these other countries require.

      The more reforms China forces on their companies the more expensive those goods become, and the less desirable it is to send manufacturing there. It's a race to the bottom only retarded by workers everywhere forcing conditions to change.
      • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:53AM (#39837835)

        This is the kind of thing that I think needs to make the news, the differences between workers' rights in different countries

        I will go first. Belgium (Minimal rights for an office employee):
        20+ days payed holidays (I have 35)
        Medical benefits
        Social security in case of unemployment
        38 working hours per week
        Choice of at least 3 unions (Although this is not a must and nobody will ask)
        Reasonable privacy laws (e.g. No camera pointed to working people)
        No firering when you told you are pregnant
        No cubicles, but rather human interaction
        Several laws that will favor the employee
        Reduction on transportation (often 100% on public transportation)
        Food checks (Often, not always. Between 5 and 7 EUR per working day)
        Best beer in the world (OK, not work related, but still: this is Belgium.)

        • A lot of the things you list are not provided by the employer, but the government.

          And no cubicles? I worked in a place like that, and it sucked due to lack of privacy! Couldn't even sneak a peak at /. without everyone seeing.

    • That sounds like good labor laws to me. It invites the next question, however: Apple - well, Foxconn - has built a manufacturing plant for iPads in Brazil, didn't they? So, apparently, manufacturing those things there is sufficiently cost-effective. Why, then, not manufacture them there for other countries, as well - including US?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:16AM (#39837621)

    "Apple, and Dell, and Samsung, and Amazon, and Tosiba, and .... (insert evert other company producing consumer electronics here) ...partner Foxconn"

    Guess only Apple shod be accountable or something?

  • After the retraction, I don't know if I even care if this is Apple at this point. Quite frankly I'd be surprised if this was at the plant producing Apple goods. The latest outbreak of suicides and protestations have been over the division that manufactures Xboxes, funny enough.

    Not Apple's gear.

  • Microsoft Factory? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dupple ( 1016592 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:23AM (#39837665)

    Manaus and Indaiatuba are where phones are made, TFA states the workers threatening to strike are at the the Jundiaí factory. Isn't that where the xbox is made?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:41AM (#39837767)

      Lots of products are made in Jundiai, Including iPhones as of December 2011.

  • by Edsj ( 1972476 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:32AM (#39837713)
    As a brazilian myself, I saw the news about it in the last few days in our local media.

    Foxconn is in Brazil for serveral years. The main problem of water was reported as a temporary supply problem from the public water system, not Foxconn fault.

    The second biggest problem was reported about the buses being overcrowded. This is most probably because Foxconn hired a lot of workes recently to increase its production and the guy responsible for transportation made a lousy job to handle the extra workers.

    Also, the union president said the strike is very unlikely because Foxconn said it was already taking care of the situation. They aren't striking for salaries, bonus, or anything else related. The union just made a warning for Foxconn to act quickly.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @11:53AM (#39837833) Journal

    More bad news comes from Apple's iDevice manufacturing partner Foxconn that is sure to ruffle the feathers of Apple fans

    I'd bet they're more ruffled by the fact that Apple gets credit for everything that happens in Foxconn anywhere......

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @12:31PM (#39838041)

    If a sociologist were to get hold of this it would be interesting. Foxconn China vs. Foxconn Brazil. The parent company and the products remain constant, as do the sources of most of the parts, while what changes are local management, local laws, and local workers. So, if there were any systematic difference in manufacturing quality between the two locations, it might tell is some interesting things about differences in culture. Do workers in China or Brazil have better attention to detail? Better concern for precision? Better concern for what the inside of a product looks like vs. the outside, where tolerances allow differences?

    My iPad 2, for instance, has a very minor manufacturing flaw. There is a plastic seal between the front glass and the metal that wraps around the sides, where along one bottom corner, the plastic protrudes slightly more. So there is room for variability in assembly that would be interesting to look at.

    For Foxconn's sake, they could turn this into a benefit. Hey personnel A! Why aren't we doing better than personnel B?

    In the US, we've kinda lost that competitive drive; we've adopted a culture of doing the minimum work for the maximum pay, but maybe Brazil and China have different values.

    • It's been known for a long time that there are distinct differences in quality control of a car depending on what plant they came out of. For example, anything that ships from Japan and Germany are the cars you want when shopping. Canada and USA are good too. But last I checked, anything coming out of Mexico has a horrible track record of issues. Be sure to check your VINs when looking for a new car.

      • by jsepeta ( 412566 )

        The same goes for Fender Stratocaster electric guitars: You want the American made one, failing that, a Japanese. The Mexican (and I'm assuming Chinese) built Strats have poorer quality control, cheaper parts.

  • If that increases the price of them $250/unit, that won't actually stop most of the noisy radicals who of course already own several of their own Apple products.

  • More bad news comes from Apple's iDevice manufacturing partner Foxconn that is sure to ruffle the feathers of Apple fans.

    Really? Are we such a deadened society that we think product allegiance equates to willful negligence of human rights?

    Somehow I get the feeling most "Apple fans" also care about the humane treatment of other human beings. Implying that loyal Apple users care more about the image of their chosen computer company than human rights is just silly sensationalist headlining.

    Oh yeah. Slashdot.

  • Foxconn supplies most every major tech firm on the planet with something. Apple just happens to be one of the larger ones.

  • If there's a story about the company that made the paint used to put lines in Apple's parking lot, I suppose /. will have to cover that, too.
  • the first line of the /. post shows that the scum bucket coward is just posting this as flame-bait.

    "More bad news comes from Apple's iDevice manufacturing partner Foxconn that is sure to ruffle the feathers of Apple fans."

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.