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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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  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Saturday June 12, 2010 @11:35AM (#32550382) Homepage

    All this will do is just move the problem. Unless they thought having to actually give a damn about those workers was a problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Give a damn about those workers...in China? Since when has any company who manufactures their products in China ever really cared about the workers? That's why they manufacture in China, cheap labor they can look the other way at.
      • by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:08PM (#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.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Excesses of unions? What are you talking about? Unions have been severely weakened ever since the late Carter/early Reagen administration. Even since Reagen the real wage of the middle and lower classes has actually *decreased*, while the entirety of US economic growth has gone into the hands of the rich.

          It was *because* of the labor unions' strength pre-1980 that increases in wealth in the US were equivalently distributed across all income groups. These last 30 years have seen an ever-widening gap be

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by clarkkent09 (1104833) *
          I hope you are trolling and, if so, good job. If not, then I don't think you realize that your "proposal" is more extreme than even the most fanatical left wing crazies would dare make these days. Imposing tariffs so that the products make in third world countries which are imported in the USA match the price of those produced in the USA? You do realize that such tariffs would bring instant death to the economies of dozens of developing countries, and that the only reason for the incredible rise in standard
          • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @01:36PM (#32551388)

            I hope you are trolling and, if so, good job. If not, then I don't think you realize that your "proposal" is more extreme than even the most fanatical left wing crazies would dare make these days. Imposing tariffs so that the products make in third world countries which are imported in the USA match the price of those produced in the USA? You do realize that such tariffs would bring instant death to the economies of dozens of developing countries, and that the only reason for the incredible rise in standard of living of ordinary workers in China in the last three decades was due to the fact that they are able to produce and export goods more cheaply than those in the countries who import them? Why else would developed countries import third world goods if by law they cost the same as those locally produced?

            Good point. The real question is: why would developed countries deliberately strip themselves of manufacturing capability in order to transfer their wealth to developing countries for the dubious benefit of poorly-made products and the loss of domestic jobs? What you are really saying is that those developing economies are totally dependent upon the United States, and that we have some obligation to maintain what is, effectively, a very costly form of foreign aid. A form that is rapidly destroying our own economy, standard of living, and way of life. We've already borrowed and given away trillions of dollars in aid to other nations, forgiven untold amounts of war debt, and now you believe that it is wrong for us to raise a few trade barriers to protect what little we have left?

            Seriously.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by mikael (484)

              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 sethstorm (512897) *

            You do realize that such tariffs would bring instant death to the economies of dozens of developing countries, and that the only reason for the incredible rise in standard of living of ordinary workers in China in the last three decades was due to the fact that they are able to produce and export goods more cheaply than those in the countries who import them?

            You're presuming an infinite amount of concern exists and an infinite tolerance for pain also exists. Not so.

            At some point it stops becoming our issue to care - at the same point where the US suffers for doing so.

            Bring on the tariffs and call their bluff.

        • by burnin1965 (535071) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @01:21PM (#32551300) Homepage

          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.

          Followed with...

          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 solution to both these problems is not for the FOX conn to unionize.

          HUH?!?

          Unions solved many of the outrageously dehumanizing conditions created by United States corporations in the past but unions are not the solution to the same dehumanizing conditions in Chinese factories?

          I think you were headed in the right direction but then your logic fell off a cliff.

          And isolating the United States economy through tariffs? Wrong answer. The majority of the economic growth is taking place outside of the United States, if you isolate us economically thinking it will increase global worker wages and improve conditions you are dead wrong, it will just further destroy the economy in the United States while places like China continue to grow.

          Now if you suggested holding United States corporate board members liable for foreign actions that would be considered illegal in the States much like a paedophile trying to continue their illicit practices overseas and then coming home to the States then you might have been on to something. I'm sure Jobs and other CEOs would take much more interest in foreign workers if they faced the possibility of jail time.

          Time and again it has been proven that when groups of people stand together against oppression by a few they often succeed in overcoming the tyranny. I find it astounding that in a nation where the people stood up against tyranny by creating a union (The United States of America) it is today considered evil, anti-american, socialist, communist, etc. for the people to stand together in a union against poor wages and working conditions.

          I think you are correct that unions were instrumental in improving the plight of the U.S. worker in the past but I would say that today in some cases the U.S. is returning to those conditions before there were unions [youtube.com], and it is not because of China it is because unions are broken by corporations through political attacks, media attacks, and out right illegal activity.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nester (14407)

          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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      It reminds me of the business that removed the clocks from the waiting room in response to complaints about wait times.
         

      • actually, from the standpoint of getting results, I'm sure that stopping compensating people for committing suicide will reduce the suicide rate. And I agree that a much more effective strategy would be finding out why it is that being dead is better than working at your plant.
        • And I agree that a much more effective strategy would be finding out why it is that being dead is better than working at your plant.

          It probably will support their families for a significant period of time or get them out from under a serious debt.

      • by L0rdJedi (65690)

        That was the post office. If it were a real business, they would've either gone bankrupt by now or done what's needed to remain profitable.

    • Not that /., foxconn or China would know the difference.

    • by icebike (68054)

      I would say removing death benefits for suicide would go a long way toward fixing the problem.

      This is the most forehead-slapping well DUH! revelation of the whole post.

      Taiwan is not mainland. Education is better. Opportunity is better. People actually quit their jobs there, and get better ones rather than commit suicide to avoid shame of losing/quitting a job far from the farm.

    • What are you doing to show you care for them? Are you going to write a check to some charity?

      Or are you just whining and posturing on an Internet message board? You pretend to care ... as long as it doesn't personally cost you anything. Stop being a drama queen.

  • Poor Planning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @11:40AM (#32550430)
    Killing yourself for financial compensation is a poor long-term business plan.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      Point being? There are places like Gaza where not killing yourself is an even worse business plan. Companies move their operations to China mainly to exploit the cheap labor. The labor being cheap mostly because the Chinese government doesn't enforce labor laws and doesn't give the people their fair share of the profits. Preferring instead to invest it in debt instruments in other countries to keep their wages artificially low.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by A Commentor (459578)

        The labor being cheap mostly because the Chinese government doesn't enforce labor laws and doesn't give the people their fair share of the profits.

        First part about the labor laws, seems like a valid complaint. But the second part, about 'fair share of the profits'. Where does that come from? As an employee, you are getting paid for the work you are doing not any profit that is made. If you want to get a share of the profits, you need to be a share holder. Some companies do offer 'profit-sharing', but that definitely not the norm.

        • By law in Mexico if a company or business post a profit in their tax reports a percentage goes for all the workers. I suppose that the same goes for many european countries. Even if the law doesn't force you to do it, it is a good practice to do it anyway since it is an incentive for the workers and employees to do a better job.

        • Re:Poor Planning (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Wildclaw (15718) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @01:55PM (#32551526)

          Some companies do offer 'profit-sharing', but that definitely not the norm.

          Of course not.

          Rule number one in any Aristocratic system is that you need to suppress the worker class, since otherwise they may start to get strange expectations, like actually getting a greater part of the wealth production that they are actually responsible for.

          And if there is one thing you don't want in an Aristocratic system, it is to have those who actual produce the wealth, starting to question those at the top leeching.

      • The labor being cheap mostly because the Chinese government doesn't enforce labor laws...

        Yes.

        ...and doesn't give the people their fair share of the profits.

        Ask any worker, isn't this the case in most countries/companies?

        Also, don't forget purchasing power. If your expenses are only a fraction of what they would be in the US, then it wouldn't really matter that you only got paid a fraction of what a US worker would make.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rosyna (80334)

      Sacrificing yourself so your family can get financial help seems to be the motive. In which case, stopping payments for suicide would remove the motive.

      Probably why life insurance companies don't pay out on suicide.

      • I wonder who thought it was a great idea to pay for suicides?

        People respond to incentives. I hope we're learning that. It continues to be a costly lesson.

        • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @03:09PM (#32552038)
          Some are better than others, but all incentive systems have perverse incentives. Even something as simple as paying a real estate agent:

          Pay them a fixed price: their incentive is for you to buy / sell ASAP, good deal or bad.
          Pay by the hour: they could milk you forever.
          Pay a percentage: buy / sell ASAP, since holding out for a better deal could easily double their work and still only increase their haul by a few percent.

          Even in the simple case - a company paying salesman a percentage of what they sell - can easily turn bad for the company through infighting salesmen, lying to customers, and customers with buyer's remorse who won't come back.

    • Re:Poor Planning (Score:5, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:33PM (#32550916)

      "Killing yourself for financial compensation is a poor long-term business plan."

      Depends on your cultural POV.

      In China, families and groups matter while life is historically very cheap. Consider the custom of "human wave" military attacks during the Korean War. Chinese soldiers quite bravely flung themselves at their objectives, sometimes winning, sometimes not, but often being shot down in droves.

      We are used to a future with hope, which we consider perfectly normal. The rest of the world is by and large a hellhole where dying to benefit ones family may be a good call.

  • You gotta make it look like an accident. Ya think with all the pirating you do, you might have gotten ONE episode of The Sopranos?
    • by naz404 (1282810)
      Many people gave their lives just to bring you the iPhones and iPads! Treasure these devices!
  • Taiwan = RoC: Republic of China
    Mainland China = PRC: People's Republic of China...

    And that doesn't even consider the eventual reunification that *both* sides desire. (although the desired terms are wildly different...)

    Anyway, I know it's great to have people employed, but if it can be automated, why wasn't it before now? The more tedious jobs we can do with machines, the more people are freed up for other things.

    You can't transition to a "post-scarcity" economy without putting a few people out of work, b

    • by sethstorm (512897) *

      Anyway, I know it's great to have people employed, but if it can be automated, why wasn't it before now? The more tedious jobs we can do with machines, the more people are freed up for other things.

      You incorrectly presume that there is a something else, that they can move to that in a short enough time, and that they want to do so.

      • You incorrectly presume that there is a something else, that they can move to that in a short enough time, and that they want to do so.

        You incorrectly presume that the job will necessarily remain available in the face of competition with lower labor costs and/or greater automation. Whether they want to go elsewhere is often, in the end, irrelevant so the only important question is whether they can move. You are correct that sometimes it is very difficult in the short run but that is not an argument against automation.

        Jobs that can be automated such that the total cost is lower will be automated. Competition will force the hand of the co

        • by sethstorm (512897) *

          The ones that wait too long will go out of business

          Or become too big to fail.

          Whether they want to go elsewhere is often, in the end, irrelevant so the only important question is whether they can move.

          Depends on if it is an economic force, or if it is a political force (e.g. "Going Galt", temporary labor, offshoring). If it is the former, automation might have a good result. If it is a political force (as what is going on now) the correct response is to block the exits.

          You are correct that sometimes it is very difficult in the short run but that is not an argument against automation.

          However, that short run is still long, and (unlike machines) people do complain in that "short" timeframe. The saving of labor is meant to Get Around Some Law, not so much to advance society.

    • You can't transition to a post scarcity economy at all without heavy wealth redistribution.

      Otherwise the economy tears itself apart in the transition, which is where we are now.

    • by B4RSK (626870)

      Anyway, I know it's great to have people employed, but if it can be automated, why wasn't it before now? The more tedious jobs we can do with machines, the more people are freed up for other things.

      Why wasn't the work automated? Cost. It's cheaper to pay $130/month for a human to do the work than it is to invest millions in factory automation.

      This can be true even in developed countries. I worked for a German company for several years. This company produced very small items that needed to be packed in boxes of between 50 and 500 pieces. It was possible to automate the work but even considering German wages it was cheaper to pay humans than to buy machines.

    • I think in the past its been cheaper to do everything by hand and not with a machine. Since Chinese people have been growing spines (example - the Honda plant situation where workers were pissed Japanese employees made 30 times what they did for the same work...) we're probably looking at the begining of the end of cheap Chinese labor and thus now the need to a) find a cheaper place to fullfill the ever bottoming ratchet of cheap labor we are addicted to or b) automate more with machines.

    • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:38PM (#32550962) Homepage Journal

      "but if it can be automated, why wasn't it before now?"

      Two words. "cost effectiveness"

      In the United States, investing in a fleet of robots can be cheaper than supporting a hundred workers. In China, you can employ an ARMY of workers, for the investment required for a single robot.

      This is the reason so many corporations are moving to China - not to help the Chinese who need jobs, but to make as much profit as possible, for as little investment as possible.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:51PM (#32551074)

      Taiwan = RoC: Republic of China
      Mainland China = PRC: People's Republic of China...

      And that doesn't even consider the eventual reunification that *both* sides desire. (although the desired terms are wildly different...)

      You really open a can of worms with that one. You're right that a significant minority want unification if differences could be resolved, but this is not a common goal. For instance, my wife is Taiwanese, and she and her family do NOT want unification. The previously elected president Chen Shui-Bian was the first president in the current government not from the Kuomintang party but from the DPP, a party that is pro-independence. Even the current president from the KMT, Ma Ying-Jeou, likely does not want unification, but rather stronger economic ties. Most Taiwanese favor the status quo-- de facto political sovereignty without severing ties with China by formally announcing independence (source [duke.edu]).

      So, no, the factories are not moving within China.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      >>>You can't transition to a "post-scarcity" economy without putting a few people out of work

      What do you feed the machines after the oil wells start to run dry (already in progress), and oil skyrockets to $500 or more per barrel (after 2020)? I wouldn't describe that as post-scarcity.

      Aside -

      I think the world is overpopulated. I also think that's the prime reason pollution is a problem - we're sitting in our own filth. If the world only had 1 billion (like the year 1800) that problem would disap

      • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @03:23PM (#32552114)

        I think the world is overpopulated.

        Well, it's hard to accuse China of not taking action on that front.

    • by dwater (72834)

      I agree that both are China, but I'm curious how "USA" is synonymous with "America".

  • by mpapet (761907) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @11:46AM (#32550488) Homepage

    Foxconn employs almost 1 million people? Really? 1 million out of 1.3 billion?

    There's no way they are going back to Taiwan. Labor costs are 5x higher. The logistics are higher cost too.

    Maybe Foxconn's days are numbered as an Apple OEM and this is just the blame shifting.

    The bottom line is that Western consumers are perfectly happy supporting distopian labor conditions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fotbr (855184)

      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 MoonBuggy (611105)

        It's even in terms of wages, but requires a very significant upfront investment in the automation tech. I'd guess they want to be paying less overall in wages, otherwise they'll never amortize the cost of the robots.

        In either case, they would only be making this move if they believed it would leave them more profitable overall.

    • The bottom line is that we are perfectly happy supporting distopian labor conditions.

      There, fixed it for ya

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "The bottom line is that Western consumers are perfectly happy supporting distopian labor conditions."

      Dystopian is relative, and relative to the horror of most Chinese history, Foxconn conditions are wonderful. Relative to the nastiness of the mostly-gone dangerous smokestack industries in the US, Foxconn conditions are wonderful.

      Americans and many Europeans are under no particular pressure to work (this isn't the Great Depression, and being "poor" doesn't mean you look like someone out of a Walker Evans ph

  • by linzeal (197905) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @11:49AM (#32550518) Homepage Journal

    No jokes about that horrible Guns n Roses album, shudder.

        The first world for the past 40 years has been using China as a source of cheap industrial labor that relied heavily upon absolute totalitarianism finds itself dealing with nascent labor unions, human rights organization and popular dissent and outrage during times of strife and disaster. As this increasingly puts strain on the kleptocratic communist party and the equally corrupt Chinese state military a rumbling/robust market economy is emerging that stands to give a significant financial foothold to an emerging Chinese middle class to the world's 3rd largest economy. Once you have a middle class anything goes, once you lose one, well...

    No army in the world can stop an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo

    • popular dissent and outrage during times of strife and disaster.

      See, that isn't going to happen anytime soon because the US which is seen as the leader of "the west" has so much debt to China. And to the Chinese, they think that America's crisis wasn't because of regulation (which it was) but rather as a failure of "capitalism" which the US actively suppresses.

      When you control the media, you can control everyone in a 1984-esque dictatorship, you can play with numbers and make China seem like its improving and the west seem like it is in decline.

    • Manufacturing moves on to India, then Africa and eventually back to the States. It's the circle of life~
  • by spleen_blender (949762) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @11:50AM (#32550522)
    These suicides are well within the statistical expectations for a worker population that large. But People don't care about facts, just emotions.
    • by JamesP (688957)

      Not if you count the attempts.

    • by dachshund (300733) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:51PM (#32551076)

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lars T. (470328)

        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

    • Britain's National Health Service has 1.3 million employees. Number of suicides last year involving NHS workers jumping from NHS buildings: zero. Indian Railways has 1.6 million employees. Can you recall the last time 10 or 15 of them threw themselves under trains over the course of a few months? Deutsche Post has half a million employees. Ever heard a story about a dozen of them hurling themselves into letter-sorting machines?

      And yes, France Telecom did have a suicide epidemic last year. Guess what. Nobody went around saying that it was no big deal because it was still below the national average in France -- instead the official explanation was that the suicides were caused by brutal management harassing workers. The Sarkozy administration took this seriously and got involved and at France Telecom a top executive actually resigned because of the tragedy.

      All I can say is the French are just such huge pussies. [...]

      The rest of Fake Steve's article can be found here [fakesteve.net].

  • Suicide Rates (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cassini2 (956052) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @11:51AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is about work related suicides, and each one of them must be looked into separately and not as a mere number in a statistic. The case with the lost iPhone should especially be taken seriously in regarding to whether executives behaved like Gestapos.

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

      Only if joblessness isn't a factor in suicide. 'Spin' is a perspective, I suppose.

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

      by mooingyak (720677) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:47PM (#32551024)

      First, you'd need Chinese rates rather than Canadian ones, as there are non-trivial cultural differences in play.

      Second, you'd need rates for the specific demographics that are employed at the factory, and not just ones for the population as a whole. In the US, the elderly [suicide.org] have a higher rate than the population as a whole, but the elderly are less likely to be employed in a factory.

      Last, as I understand it, they've had 9 suicides at the factory, not just 9 suicides by people employed by the factory. The article isn't clear on whether Foxconn paid benefits for any suicide by an employee or just ones that happen on Foxconn property, but if it's the latter it's certainly a motivator.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Not really. The problem with that chart is that some suicides which are actual suicides aren't recorded. While others that are, shouldn't be. Nature of policing world wide, some acts aren't the same everywhere.

        An example: In Canada, anything that you can do which causes your death and is deliberate and planned is considered suicide. In various parts of Europe, Asia and the US: It requires that it be by your own hand. So popping pills to die or hanging yourself, is suicide. But jumping in front of a

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

      by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @01:02PM (#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 couchslug (175151)

        "Jumping is a very gruesome way to die."

        A dry dive is also quick (splat!) and a popular method in some areas. The person suiciding doesn't have to clean up the mess.

        A dry dive in front of a train is quick and popular (++ for white-collar criminals who suicide, too bad they don't do it in the US):

        http://www.atimes.com/japan-econ/AH04Dh01.html [atimes.com]

  • Obviously, the recent spate of suicides shows us that working conditions at Foxconn in China are not optimal. But you also have to consider why people would take such jobs - it's clear they don't have any better alternatives. What becomes of these 800,000 who lose their jobs?

    Also, I'm not sure I see an advantage to Foxconn, either. If they're going to be moving their operations to countries with better working conditions with a higher overhead for labor, what are they gaining? Wouldn't it make more sense to

  • The CEO has accused workers of killing themselves for financial compensation, and the company has stopped suicide payments to suicide victims' families.

    You know the working conditions/pay are bad when people would rather kill themselves for the insurance.

  • I heard that Foxconn's suicide rate is below that of the general Chinese populace. But that doesn't stop people from overreacting I guess.

    I'm sure the 800,000 newly unemployed people will understand.

  • by John Sokol (109591) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:28PM (#32550876) Homepage Journal

    It was like 20 years ago when I was working at the Stanford medical center, they had a mail delivery robot that committed suicide.
    For about a year it was zipping around delivering mail, and xrays. It even knew how to take the elevators.

    But every now and again it would just hang out by the ATM machine and act weird.

    One day it just drove down a flight of stairs and crashed to the bottom shaking the whole building and crushing it's plastic casing.
    I had a great photo of it lying in a pool of brown lubricant and battery acid, surrounded by doctors in white and blue coats.

    There were rumors that the ATM machine rejected it.

  • "a move which could see 800,000 workers lose their jobs"

    Cool, mass unemployment. That'll help cut the suicide rate.

  • I would imagine that until now, Foxconn's bean-counters had done the math and figured out that it was cheaper to simply build a factory in China and use cheap labor to make their products. But now that their labor is causing PR problems, demanding raises, and killing themselves for insurance payouts, the bean-counters redid the math and figured out hey, if we keep this up, it would be cheaper just to move to Taiwan and have robots do most of the work. So that's what makes sense, and that's what they'll do

    • by sethstorm (512897) *

      That's about when things start needing to get a bit more deadly, and not for the line/staff folks - but for the ones who are able to move the work.

  • Automating spin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psnyder (1326089) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @12:53PM (#32551092)

    automating many parts of its business, a move which could see 800,000 workers lose their jobs.

    Why is there always a focus on the negative side of automation? It really means less work, same productivity. Humans no longer need to work as hard to produce the same quality of life.

    The difficulty with these stories lies in the fact that it's a redistribution of wealth from the workers to the owners of the company, until those owners redistribute the wealth again by investing the savings. So it's difficult for the people who lose their jobs, as they now have to fight to get new ones. It's sad. But for humanity as a whole, extra efficiency means greater wealth, since we are now creating the same product with less work invested.

    It raises everybody up in the long run. Compare medieval kings to lower middle class people of today and we find the kings did not have the amount of entertainment to choose from, the durable clothes, the variety of food available, the health care quality, perks like temperature control of their rooms, etc.

    That's the overall and long term effect, the greater positive side, and something that is too often ignored.


    • Why is there always a focus on the negative side of automation?

      A) It puts people out of work
      B) Retraining on the large scale does not work due to its inaccuracy and slow speed.

      Now if there was a clear way to speedily transition people, you might have a point. That, and retraining only pays for retraining - you still have to find ways to survive.

      It's not like those 1930's cartoons where they just jump off the unemployment line in a matter of seconds. It's more like years if at all.


      It raises everybody up in

  • After all, its freedom right ? freedom to say that the workers who committed SUICIDE because you were harranguing and exploiting them like slaves, to the point of LOCKING them in the factory, were actually killing themselves for financial compensation !!!!!!

    private indeed does it better. better than anything, anyone. slave drivers of ancient times would be proud. dont misunderstand - they wouldnt be proud at the way slave driving was done - they would be proud with the successful justification and politi
  • So, how do they say "Durk er duh!" in Chinese?

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @03:06PM (#32552024) Journal

    Nothing changes. In the west we had exploitative companies as well, still have to some degree read up on EA, and we had the same kind of struggles. In the end it seems to have worked itself out maybe mostly because we didn't have silly people from other cultures giving smart remarks from their comfortable lives won by the hard work of others.

    Once a woman choose to be tramped to death for the right to vote. Now many women her age can't even be bothered to vote. On a site were the vast majority is upper white middle class with high paying jobs for a minimum of physical labour you have a discussion about how good/bad foxconn is were people work 14+ hour shifts 6-7 days a week. Last time anyone here did an all nighter was to play WoW. In China you do 30+ hours because the boss says so and when you die, nobody is there to sue the hell out of the employer. Here? If the boss gives you a mean look you sue for trauma.

    And of course the fact that 99% here have gadgets made by foxconn doesn't in the least inspire a bit of "justification" spell "B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T-T-I-N-G" alone the lines of 'well, any job is better the no job".

    Humanity, not found on slashdot.

  • Bogus Slashdot story (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 12, 2010 @03:44PM (#32552232) Homepage

    Read the original article. Gou, the CEO of Foxconn, talked at their annual meeting about moving some production to Taiwan, Vietnam, and India. It's not clear that they even intend to reduce their head count in China; that's a speculation by Oriental Daily. Foxconn has been growing rapidly, and they have too many people at one location. (Managing really huge plants is historically a headache. The maximum optimal plant size seems to be around 3,000, from modern US experience. All the economies of scale have been achieved by then. China is at an earlier stage of automation, though. The US at one time had single steel plants that employed 8,000 people with shovels. )

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