Photo from Xinhua.
It took over a dozen suicide attempts for them to realize conditions at Foxconn were maybe somewhat inhuman, but it looks like the company’s at least willing to change its ways now. On the table for Foxconn workers: a wage increase that doubles their salaries and a new rule instating that they take at least one day off a week.
According to the New York Times, the company said in a statement on Sunday that the “wage increase has been instituted to safeguard the dignity of workers.”
In announcing the wage increase late Sunday, the company, a unit of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, said that within three months the basic salaries of many of its 800,000 workers in China could reach nearly $300 a month, about double what many were earning a few weeks ago…
As recently as two weeks ago, the basic salary for many workers at Foxconn’s huge factories in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen was about 900 renminbi a month, or about $132 a month.
Last week, Foxconn said that salary would immediately rise to $176 a month. And now, the company says that after a three-month trial period, workers will be paid $294 a month.
With the wage increase comes several other initiatives to ensure a better quality of life for employees.
Some of the ones listed by Xinhua (Chinese) had been previously outlined in the employee non-suicide pact – namely the establishment of an Employee Care Center and telephone hotlines.
New initiatives include:
- A daily 5pm meeting session, chaired by the General Manager and department heads of everything from human resources to security, to discuss and work through problems.
- Employee mental health training and the establishment of a psychological counseling room, a “room for venting” and the showing of “inspirational movies.”
- An audit system for protecting employees from taking too much overtime work and a mandatory day off (written as “at least one day off”) each week.
All sound much more practicalthan the first round of ideas Foxconn came up with: monks and music. But as some analysts have already noted, the new worker health initiative and wage increase’s “outcome is simple: manufacturers either improve productivity, shrink their margins or pass the costs on to consumers.”
I may be pessimistic, but I doubt anything could improve productivity on the assembly line past the original pre-suicide conditions Foxconn had in place. That means either shrinking margins for Foxconn/the companies they make stuff for or higher priced iPods for us. And while, when it comes to something as frivolous as the iPod, we’re probably willing to pay a good $58 or so more (especially now that we’ve gotten an uncomfortable glimpse at why they’re cheap), what if the price of everything else Foxconn makes goes up too? What if, thanks to more laborers fighting for their rights, labor finally becomes uncheap in China?
Would the West be able to deal with that? Or will slews of companies just move their factories to the next unregulated, eager-for-employment country and let history repeat itself.