Foxconn – Conning our Conscience (pun based title, yes)

Whilst engaging in the delights of an amigos abolutionary facilities on Saturday morning I read an interesting piece about the electronics giant Foxconn and felt compelled to get a little info about it down on electrnic paper (i.e. a screen).

Growing out of Taipei and now with over a million workers in China, Foxconn has a supersized factory that Macdonalds would be proud of based in Shenzhen Special Economic zone, next to Hong Kong. The company was projected to have a 50% market share in world electronics manufacturing and services by the middle of 2011, a truly staggering piece of the pie. Its Net Income in 2010 was 2.2 billion dollars and its revenue was 79.1 billion, not to be sniffed at. The company produces all of our iphones, ipods, Kindles, Wii, Playstations and much much more.

The issue I now have with Foxconn comes with its treatment, a better word would be abuse, of the Chinese work force (numbering roughly one million) that they employ. SOme points of note; Workers must shout in unison before the day begins, expressing that they are ‘Very Good!’. They have to pass through many security gates, losing all sense of freedom, if they talk on the production line they are punished. If someone needs to be punished then often everyone is forced to stay behind and watch a while the accused worker reads out a statement of self criticism to all their colleagues. Some workers are made to copy out quotes such as ‘A harsh environment is a good thing’, hundreds of times.

There are dorms provided by the company which means most of the migrant force live on site (as they cannot afford local, small apartments), increasing efficiency for the company. It is also useful for Foxconn as it means they can reassign workers to different dorms periodically, to break up friendship groups that may strengthen into voices for the workers. And of course, no friends or family may visit overnight. This, evidently, increases stress and depression among the workforce. The company wants the factory to run 24/7 and workers are being pushed more and more to reach ever outrageous targets at the cost of their mental, emotional and physical health.

And so this strain is showing; in 2009 18 Foxconn workers attempted suicide at their production facilities in 3 different provinces. They now have, at the Shenzhen factory, nets hung around outdoor stairs and dormitories in order to help mitigate against the suicide attempts. They call these nets the ‘nets with a loving heart’. What more needs to be said?

These methods of production and corporate management need to be resisted by us lot. I have an inbuilt attachment to my ipod because my music is so important to me and I feel that, as I now have an archive on Apple/itunes format, I need to stick to it, for the stability of my archive. This is nonsense and I will not be getting another ipod when this one breaks (which it inevitably will relatively soon, due to Apple’s unbelievably translucent adherence to built in obsolescence) due to this new information that has come to my attention . With the way we are headed in our lusting after technological gadgets, we need to remain aware about where these products come from and know not to engage with those that have such blatant disregard for their own peoples wellbeing.

 

Two Good articles:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-401234/The-stark-reality-iPods-Chinese-factories.html

http://www.newint.org/features/2011/04/01/islave-foxconn-suicides-workers/

 

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