After Public Outcry, Foxconn Factory (Where Apple Products, Others are Made) Will Raise Wages

Working conditions in China's factories have long been a subject of concern for workers' rights advocates and anti-globalization activists; the loosening of trade regulations has meant a "race to the bottom" around the world as global corporations jump borders in search of the workforce with the lowest wages and the fewest protections on the job. 

Arun Gupta reported for AlterNet:

Apple’s formula for mammoth profits, which topped $13 billion last quarter, starts with a highly flexible workforce. Foxconn wields military-style discipline to turn workers into flesh-and-blood robots who can fulfill exacting specifications and orders for new and constantly updated product lines, such as five generations of iPhones in four years. Workers are driven to crank out more computers in less time at lower costs because they are disposable. Of 420,000 employees at “Foxconn City” in Shenzhen, which abuts Hong Kong, half had less than six months service. The inevitable and systematic abuses crush the dreams of young rural migrants, argue scholars, making the suicides a logical outgrowth of the iEconomy as much as the iPad. Simply put, nothing will change unless Apple and Foxconn are forced to because their empires are built on these practices. (Foxconn denies everything.)

But thanks to several reports and a wave of public anger, the workers at one of the most prominent factories will be getting a significant raise. New York Magazine reports: 

 The raise is between 16 and 25 percent per worker, which would bring monthly salaries up to about $400 per month. It's also accompanied by a pledge to reduce overtime, and that part of the deal goes a lot further in addressing the actual concerns of Foxconn critics. (Punishing amounts of overtime were said to be a factor in the suicides.) But the overtime promise is also harder to fact-check and moderate for outsiders; and the toxic chemicals and dangerous working conditions that critics have also pointed to aren't addressed in the deal.

It's a step in the right direction, though it certainly won't fix everything for these or other workers--and as NYMag notes, consumers will have to get used to paying more for their goods (although the companies could also get used to making a slightly smaller profit margin as well--but we never hear any talk of that). 

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at February 20, 2012, 10:24am

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