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Foxconn May Close Factories In China 476

Posted by Soulskill
from the dying-for-some-better-pr dept.
ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "Foxconn, the manufacturer whose clients include Apple, Dell, and HP, is on the verge of pulling out of China after a spate of suicides. The CEO has accused workers of killing themselves for financial compensation, and the company has stopped suicide payments to suicide victims' families. Foxconn's CEO also told investors that it is considering moving its production operations to Taiwan, and automating many parts of its business, a move which could see 800,000 workers lose their jobs."
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Foxconn May Close Factories In China

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  • Suicide Rates (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cassini2 (956052) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:51PM (#32550536)

    The suicide rate in Canada is about 3600 deaths per year [fathersforlife.org] for 1992 in a population of 28.4 million. [wikipedia.org] If Foxconn employs 800,000 workers, one would expect 101 suicides, assuming the same suicide rate. This is far higher than the number actually experienced at FoxConn, where only 9 people have died as of May. [bbc.co.uk]

    Based on this, working for Foxconn in China is better than living in Canada, at least as far as suicide risk is concerned.

    This puts the numbers in perspective. Down with the oppressive Canadian Imperialist Overlords!

  • Re:Can't run forever (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:55PM (#32550568) Homepage

    Big bugs have little bugs
    Upon their backs to bite them.
    Little bugs have littler bugs.
    And so, ad infinitum.

    China already has operations in Africa, where locals are treated worse than slaves.

  • by fotbr (855184) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:59PM (#32550604) Journal

    Labor costs might be 5x higher, but if you can automate 80% of the work, it comes out even. That might not be possible, but put another way, they now have 5x the motivation to automate everything they can.

  • by Cassini2 (956052) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @01:02PM (#32550626)

    Yes, obviously the workers who killed themselves are in the wrong. Why does it always seem that the world turns upside-down in the world of business and economics?

    In the U.S., families often encouraged the police to classify suicides as "accidental" gun-shot wounds. For example: "Gun cleaning accidents." This avoided many social stigmas for the surviving family. As such, the family quietly encouraged the police to do this.

    When Foxconn kills suicide payments, the families will pressure the police to classify the deaths as "accidents". Thus avoiding some bad press for Foxconn. It is amazing what a little financial encouragement can accomplish ...

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @01:08PM (#32550706)

    Although there were "guilds" in europe for ages, the modern trade union emerged in the US as the train union. At the time train workers were like foxxcon workers. There was no assurance a route would ever return you home. You lived in company towns along the way. And the main fixture there was the bar where you wasted your pay check. Accident rates where high and efficiency or scheduling was low. Since you lost your wages and never saw your family, what were you living for?

    The train unions first emerged not to demand better wages but better living conditions. They sold themselves to the train owners as a plan to increase professionalism and public respect. It worked. accident rates did go down. Barrier's to entry and standards increased training, retention of experience, and professional conduct. Workers took pride in their work. Many bars were closed People returned home on time and with money in their pockets.

    Today we often see unions as protecting lazy workers form being fired or demanding higher wages via collective bargaining. What we don't see is that these are small perturbations about a dynamic equilibrium between labor and management. That is we no longer have the deprevating working conditions of the 19th century to see what could be the case if management got the upper hand when labor markets were not tight. The excesses of unions we see to day are tracebable to fact that in some markets it's possible for manufacturer's to push along price increases as long as they can gaurenttee the competion pays the same costs. E.g. car manufatuter's would agree to a wage increase at GM as long as there was also one at ford. IN any given port, the same principle allows port owners to pass along long shoremen wage increases.

    What we have here in foxconn is a throwback to the same early situation. Workers living in company dorms, shitty pay, long hours and dangerous working conditions. That is to say, no union.

    The real problem with this is not the sad plight of those poor workers. But actually because it undermines the status of workers who work in countries with state or union mandated good working conditions. Those jobs get shipped out. There is a push to relax those costly standards to get the jobs back.

    The solution to both these problems is not for the FOX conn to unionize. It would be good if they did but until that becomes universal in asia it won't fix the problem, it will just move it. INstead the solution is to put a tarrif on all imports from countries that makes the playing field level.

    if your workers have below-OSHA woking conditions then imported goods get a tarrif that is equal to the cost to US companies for maintaining OSHA standards.

    this then makes it cost neutral for foxcon to have better condtions because it can outcompete companies that don't do that.

  • US worker suicides (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @01:48PM (#32551044) Homepage Journal

    In the US various insurance benefits are often void if you commit suicide (at least the larger benefits), which is a financial reason for classifying a suicide as an accident. And I have never heard of a US corporation paying a family of US workers due to suicide.
    I think Foxconn is more compassionate in this specific instance than a typical US company, but the whole thing backfired.

    but if you go postal and shoot up your office and the cops take you out, that's not suicide here in the US. so you're family gets life insurance benefits. you get a little infamy, and you can work out some of your pent up rage on helpless coworkers.
    Of course it seems more embarrassing for your family for you to be a homicidal maniac, so suicide is still probably preferable.

  • Re:Suicide Rates (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @02:02PM (#32551180)

    If you want to compare rates of suicides at the workplace, compare rates of suicides at the ***workplace***. Jumping is a very gruesome way to die. Also, jumping from your own office building, when done willingly, is a very public statement.

    And by the way, all those nine workers (including the one who signed the no-suicide contract) have chosen to jump to their deaths on premises in the exact same way in a span of five months, not twelve. Furthermore, suicide rates per country include young teenagers killing themselves and old people killing themselves (as in euthanasia). Whatever makes those stats look bigger, that's why they're included, even if one could argue that euthanasia should not be included, because the bigger those suicide stats are, the higher the government funding ends up being. And you take away these two populations, you have a much-much lower rate of suicides overall.

    In any case, if you really want to compare suicide rates on premises between companies, see these [fakesteve.net] examples of much much larger companies with zero rates of suicides. And yes, I understand the problem of estimating randomness and simulating the flip of a coin, but nevertheless, even if you don't completely believe me, I'm suggesting that you not mindlessly repeat the FoxConn/Apple PR report that's being parroted over the news.

  • by nester (14407) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @04:56PM (#32552300)

    If those tariffs were in place those workers' current jobs would never have existed! They would be even worse off. They choose to work those jobs because they are better than any alternatives they had. Labor laws are a luxury. Rich countries can afford them and shift work to less developed countries. Those countries in turn develop over time (unless prevented by bad government, war, or other stupidity). The only hope these people have of achieving what we have (including stricter labor laws) is to use their current situation to their advantage to build wealth and industry.

    Your idea of tariffs would condemn them. That is immoral to them and immoral to us (artificially increasing costs). Not to mention the fact that your tariffs do not go to the works at all. They would bear the entire cost but receive no benefit. A do-gooder policies like that is shallow, stupid, and actually counter-productive.

  • by mikael (484) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @05:09PM (#32552372)

    The Lima Declaration of 1975" [olm.net]

    A promise to hand over 30% of manufacturing capacity of developed countries to developing countries with no regard to the financial consequences of their own citizens. The only action taken was to maintain the benefits system.

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Saturday June 12, 2010 @05:15PM (#32552428)
    Chinese products are cheaper because the workforce is abused....[the rest of your post follows from that assumption]

    Bleeding heart liberal answer: No it is not

    In fact the recent boom in manufacturing has created the greatest improvement in the living standards of Chinese people since...well, since ever. Why on earth do you think they leave the countryside by tens of millions to come and work in factories in the cities? Because they are worse off or better off by doing so? It follows the same pattern as the industrial revolution in Britain which improved the lives of average people more than anything since the invention of agriculture. You can't compare the living standard of Chinese worker to the US worker. You can't jump from a third world nation to a first world nation overnight. You have to compare the living standard of Chinese worker 10, 20, 30 years ago etc to today. Google some charts to see, per capita GDP [typepad.com], average wage growth [researchrecap.com] etc.

    Stone hearted conservative answer: So what if it is?

    We as a nation benefit from having access to goods for a lot lower price than the price at which we can produce them ourselves. What do we care how they do it, by abusing their workers, polluting their cities or subsidizing their industries. It would all amounts to the same thing, benefit to us at their expense (see youtube video in the previous post). Sure we lose some of the jobs in a specific industry but we gain more jobs and more wealth overall.
  • by Lars T. (470328) <[moc.liamelgoog] [ta] [regearT.sraL]> on Saturday June 12, 2010 @05:42PM (#32552616) Journal

    These suicides are well within the statistical expectations for a worker population that large. But People don't care about facts, just emotions.

    Really? Is it statistically common for groups of people from the same workplace to throw themselves off the same rooftops in large numbers? I mean, keep in mind that these aren't unrelated people slitting their wrists or taking pills.

    I'm hardly the first person to make this point, but consider the last time you heard of a rooftop-suicide epidemic at a major corporation. Can't? That's because even given the huge number of people employed by corporations it's an unbelievably rare event. In fact there have been one or two such examples over the past few decades and they were treated as exactly the unusual and horrifying event that they are.

    Correlation != causation. As for suicides at a major employer: France Telecom. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/09/france-telecom-suicides-a_n_531713.html [huffingtonpost.com] "A report by the French labor inspector's office concluded that 14 cases of suicide, attempted suicide or depression can be considered directly linked with the company's managerial techniques – such as pressuring employees to change jobs or giving them work the employees considered "devaluing."

    France Telekom only had around 100,000 employees before the lay-offs. And the number of suicides is actually even larger, those are the cases where they have proof that they are work related. IOW unlike the Foxconn cases.

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