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Foxconn CEO Says, ''We Are Not a Sweatshop''

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 48 comments

With a surge of suicides dragging the company's policies and working environment into the spotlight once again, Foxconn is eager to convince the world that whatever the reason for the suicide cluster, employment conditions are not to blame.

A recent undercover report revealed the hours employees work, more often than not working overtime just to make a halfway decent wage.

Report by 22-year-old Liu Zhiyi:

Each employee would sign a "voluntary overtime affidavit," in order to waive the 36-hour legal limit on your monthly overtime hours. This isn't a bad thing, though, as many workers think that only factories that offer more overtime are "good factories," because "without overtime, you can hardly make a living." For the workers desperate for making money, overtime is like "a pain that can breathe:" without it, the days without money make them "suffocate;" with it, the restless work would only add more "pain" to the body, thus aging quicker. Most of the time they staunchly choose the latter, but even the right to choose such isn't available to all. Only those with the seniors' "trust," with good connections, or those in key positions, can often get to work overtime.

When chatting with them, I often struggled to respond, as I felt I was ridiculously fortunate. They actually envied those who could take a leave due to work injury, while casually joking about how their station's been toxicated. When talking about their colleagues' suicidal jumps, there was often a surprisingly calm reaction, and sometimes even a banter would be made about it, as if they were all outsiders.

When the report surfaced, many people commented on how terrible it must be to work in a factory where the conditions remsemble that of a sweatshop. Foxconn CEO Guo Tai-ming yesterday released a statement to the Chinese press addressing the suicide cluster and denied that he is running a sweatshop.

"We believe that we are definitely not a sweatshop. It's very difficult to manage a manufacturing team of 800,000 something," he said, according to Engadget. "With the others around the world it adds up to almost 900,000, so there's a lot to be done every day. However, we believe that we'll soon be able to stabilize this situation."

Foxconn has hired roughly 50 councilors to help with the suicide situation. Another, more recent undercover report by three men who managed to secure jobs at Foxconn claims that employees are often verbally abused by managers and randomly deduct pay from their performance bonuses. They say Foxconn has been losing 50,000 employees per month for the last three months and that the company, so desperate to keep numbers up, has all but dropped recruitment standards (such as needing a secondary education). Now, all you need is to show them your ID.

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Top Comments
  • 22 Hide
    sliem , May 27, 2010 3:28 AM
    "without overtime, you can hardly make a living"
    That itself is wrong. Unfortunately that's just the way it is over there.
  • 21 Hide
    polly the parrot , May 27, 2010 3:17 AM
    Sure you aren't. And the sky isn't blue either.
  • 21 Hide
    Trueno07 , May 27, 2010 3:15 AM
    Keep telling yourself that CEO.
Other Comments
    Display all 48 comments.
  • 12 Hide
    climber , May 27, 2010 3:13 AM
    This is not the news bite you want to have to defend against...
  • 21 Hide
    Trueno07 , May 27, 2010 3:15 AM
    Keep telling yourself that CEO.
  • 21 Hide
    polly the parrot , May 27, 2010 3:17 AM
    Sure you aren't. And the sky isn't blue either.
  • 22 Hide
    sliem , May 27, 2010 3:28 AM
    "without overtime, you can hardly make a living"
    That itself is wrong. Unfortunately that's just the way it is over there.
  • 12 Hide
    athreex , May 27, 2010 3:35 AM
    Come Foxconn, you should change that slogan:

    "Advancing through Innovation"

    should change to

    "Advancing through the tears of our workers"
  • -4 Hide
    wintermint , May 27, 2010 3:36 AM
    Wonder what will the people that offed themselves say to this...
  • 4 Hide
    pyroghozt , May 27, 2010 3:46 AM
    Really? I was quite well under the impression that the Foxcon employees had a certain amount of work they had to do in a day and if they didn't finish they would stay till late to finish it. And if they don't manage to finish at all they are held financially responsible.

    I was also well under the impression that the people committing suicide are young people around their early 20s who are poor and just starting out.I also here there is a clause in their contract stating that they are no longer responsible for debts to the company if they commit suicide.

    I hear the reason people are committing suicide is because they are poor and don't want to pay or make their families pay because in some instances they are the sole or one of the only providers for an entire poor family.

    There are obviously a lot of cultural influences as well as the concept of shame brought on ones family for instance in this situation.

    But it does seem to me that the problem is caused by very corrupt corporate policies, stress and certain cultural issues as well.

    Somehow saying that you have x employees and can't look after all of them and that you are bringing in 50 councilors to help seems to merely be "damage control" on a situation you caused in the first place.

    You can play the "Pontius Pilate" card if you want and wash your hands claiming to be ignorant of the situation, but that doesn't bring 11 people back from their graves does it.
  • -3 Hide
    omnimodis78 , May 27, 2010 3:58 AM
    Haha - "... It's very difficult to manage a manufacturing team of 800,000 something," - - say what???? "800,000 something"? You think a CEO would be able to quote a closer-to-the-mark payroll number. Now this might not seem like a big deal to most, but the point is that obviously he isn't really all that informed about his human resources if he can't give a better number than that.
  • 3 Hide
    matt_b , May 27, 2010 4:00 AM
    Right.....your employees just have incredibly low self-esteem for no apparent reason. Those that have passed (although acceptable in numbers by their standards), just hated their personal lives but honestly loved their jobs!
  • 1 Hide
    omnimodis78 , May 27, 2010 4:23 AM
    Jesus Lord - take a look at their "interview tips" page on their website ( - I am sure that getting an audience with Queen Elizabeth II doesn't come with such a lenghty list. I feel really bad for these poor souls, I think I would hang myself (no disrespect meant) before I even got to the interview. :s
  • 1 Hide
    truehighroller , May 27, 2010 4:26 AM
    Slave drivers, period.
  • 13 Hide
    j51 , May 27, 2010 4:26 AM
    ''We Are Not a Sweatshop''...

    hmmm.. it depends.... from US/Europe point of view... yes you are!

    However if we look at it from developing countries' point of view... you are probably ok...

    and from an undeveloped country's point of view... you are very good!

    well... it all depends on your point of view...

    I guess my point of view is pretty different from his (the CEO) point of view....
  • 11 Hide
    j51 , May 27, 2010 4:36 AM
    By the way... just saw a news... they said... for the pay and the work environment... Foxconn is not really a sweatshop... at least by Chinese standard... However, for the stress and pressure they have there... Foxconn is definitely a sweatshop mentally...

    hmm... I am kind of agree with that...

    by the way... talking about the mental sweatshop... I heard the suicide rate is way higher in wall street than Foxconn..;)

    can we call wall street a mental sweatshop too?.. :p 


  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , May 27, 2010 4:39 AM
    The country government is to be blamed for shoddy manpower laws as a result companies can exploit the people.
  • 7 Hide
    samwelaye , May 27, 2010 4:44 AM
    okay, IF foxconn were to pay their employees good wages and give them regular hours, theyed go out of business. The price of computer components would go so high in order to be able to pay the wages that people would simply stop buying
  • 2 Hide
    intelliclint , May 27, 2010 4:44 AM
    More interesting is look at what your buying. Dell, HP, Apple, IBM, Gateway use parts, more in laptops and smaller devices, that Foxconn makes. The fan assembly and speakers in the laptop I am typing on are Foxconn products sold to HP. This, and other companies like them, have allowed for the price drops in product by providing labor at prices no one else can match.

    Great for the buyer, assuming the buyer can still buy because he has lost his job. Not saying this doesn't make profits for business, but it lack social responsibility.
  • 1 Hide
    JonnyDough , May 27, 2010 4:47 AM
    If I was guilty of something I might say I wasn't too.

    This is what happens when capitalism meets desperation. Slavery. Kinda makes you hope that 2012 doesn't bring the end of the world, just the end of the times.
  • -5 Hide
    bin1127 , May 27, 2010 4:48 AM
    Get off their backs! Foxconn just hired 50 councillors to help their 900,000 employees. What more are you asking for?

    Hey, and the workers are dying for more overtime cause the regular wages Foxconn pays can't even feed their families. So more work = more pay. case closed. Good job FC.
  • 4 Hide
    amnotanoobie , May 27, 2010 5:01 AM
    This is only making the headlines as there was an Apple related suicide before. Surely there are far worse factories out there, but Foxconn just got the spotlight for now.
  • 6 Hide
    ta152h , May 27, 2010 5:38 AM
    I can see people love to get on their soapboxes and proclaim how horrible things are, even though everyone has done this anyway.

    Clearly, it's not the greatest place in the world to work, but to say the company is responsible for people killing themselves is idiotic. They can quit, work someplace else, etc... There are 800,000 people that aren't killing themselves too, so let's keep it in perspective. People who kill themselves should take responsibility for their actions. There are a lot of things in life to be miserable from, not just work. A bad job could certainly fuel it, but it's not often the main reason. China has a very high suicide rate, around 300,000 a year, which keeps these suicides in perspective.

    Also ask yourself, how many people might commit suicide were they unable to work for Foxconn? Consider the very high suicide rate in China when formulating your opinion.

    Considering they are in China, I'm guessing more people die from other work related causes than suicide - it's not like they've got high safety standards.
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