Foxconn, the assembler of most of our electronic playthings is in the headlines again this week after reports started to appear about a potential strike happening during China's "Golden Week" holiday last week. Early reports painted a picture of upwards from 3000 to 4000 employees striking at Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant located in central China's Hebei province. Despite the outpour of coverage on the work stoppage, Foxconn has come out today to say that nothing has happened and that production is on schedule.
So far it appears that Foxconn might be telling the truth; unlike any other Foxconn debacle to date, no real pictures have shown up. Photos that are appearing across the board in China are pictures from last month's Sept 23 Foxconn riot in Taiyuan, Shaanxi province.
Last week China Labor Watch, a New York-based China labor advocacy group, put out reports of a riot happening in Foxconn Zhengzhou. Backed by posts on Sina's microblog Sina Weibo by supposed Foxconn employees various media groups pounced on the story. Loads of Chinese media, including People's Daily have all sourced the CLW for their own coverage of the Zhengzhou incident.
According to CLW's report, the violence broke out in Zhengzhou because workers were upset with new policies at Foxconn, policies that were enacted because of Apple. CLW's report stated that Apple had received complaints about quality issues with the iPhone 5 and that because Foxconn Zhengzhou was a major producer of the iPhone the plant started doubling down on quality. Tensions eventually flared up and quality control inspectors fell into conflicts with production line workers.
Our own sister-site Gizmodo reported that the reasons for the strike could be that the workers are overworked and under too much pressure. However Foxconn has come out and said that the reports are false and that everything is going according to schedule.
Foxconn spokesperson Liu Kun (Mainland spelling) says that CLW's report isn't entirely true, elaborating that there have been small disputes but no full on riots.
"We see CLW's reports, and I admit that there have been a few production line disputes, disputes between manufacturing employees and quality control inspectors," said Liu to Beijing News. "It could be from lack of communication. There were about 300-400 staff absent from work, but it did not look anything like what the [CLW] report said; the picture they painted sounded more like Taiyuan, not Zhengzhou."
Liu then mentions that Foxconn offers two different types of payment options for overtime wages and pays employees much more than the local average, Foxconn pays Shenzhen wages. Workers who work overtime are given 2-3 times their standard wages.
China's Henan province is one of China's most populous provinces and is often considered rather backwards compared to coastal and eastern provinces. Part of the reason why Foxconn moved its operations inland was because cities such as Shenzhen, located in Guangdong province, became more and more expensive to operate in. Shenzhen's Foxconn factory has lines of people queueing up for work because the wages are considered "good". In reality Foxconn wages aren't good, Chinese wages are just crap.
This is the second "disruption" to hit the Taiwanese company in as little as a month. Late last month a riot broke out in Foxconn's Taiyuan plant in Shaanxi where 2000 plus employees started brawling with security staff. Police were called to the scene and were left stationed outside the facility to "keep" the peace following the days.
There's currently no word whether or not if Foxconn Zhengzhou has police securing it's facilities, but if rumors of an iPad mini rolling out in October are true, we maybe only seeing the tip of the Foxconn labour dispute iceberg.
富士康否认郑州工厂大规模停工 承认管理有问题 [Beijing News Via People's Daily]
(Top photo: Foxconn workers dress T-shirts with an "I Love Foxconn" slogan during a rally to raise morale at the heavily regimented factories inside the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, south China, Guangdong province, Wednesday August 18, 2010. Photographer: Kin Cheung | AP)
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.