Yesterday's Foxconn worker riot that forced Foxxcon to close its factory in Taiyuan (capitol of Shanxi province, not to be confused with Taiwan) brings China's labor conditions into media focus again. The official reason for the riot was given as "brawl between two different units of workers." However, "different units of workers" do not usually have conflicts that can cause thousands of workers to riot together and attack both the security fence/guard post and a local supermarket. The initial media reports of only 40 injured and no one killed were also wrong. Xinhua now is reporting that at least 10 people were dead.
Rumors on the Chinese web are that after an initial brawl started, a group of 2,000 workers coming off their shift suddenly charged the security guards, and beat up about 200 of the guards.
It is well-known in China, that most of the electronics factories, including Foxconn's factories, are run like military style concentration camps. More details below.
The Foxconn factory in Taiyuan employs about 100,000 workers, and has about 1,500 security guards to guard the compound. Are these guards there to keep unwanted people out, as Romney would like to claim?
The answer is NO! Not only the guards are there to keep the workers in, they are there to keep them disciplined and obedient, just like in a concentration camp. One worker at the rioting plant told of being beaten by the guards once because one of his buttons on the uniform was loose.
Two years ago I wrote a diary about the string of suicides at Foxconn that year. After causing a media firestorm, Foxconn promised to improve working conditions and raise salaries. But things didn't improve. Earlier this year, an investigative report (in Chinese) was posted on the net, that told of a horrific story of local government forcing people to work for Foxconn, and some details of the government run slave trade.
Here is some excerpt from the article:
Before Chinese New Year, Liu Baoyu (pseudonym) failed her quota of recruiting enough workers for Foxconn, so she had to go to work in Foxconn's Chengdu factory herself. Her supervisor told her, "If you cannot recruit enough people, then you have to go yourself."Apparently, local governments all over Sichuan have been acting as the recruiters for Foxconn, and if the government officials cannot fulfill their quota, they themselves will be sent to Foxconn to serve as slave labors. But unlike the other people they send over, they get to keep their government pay, which could be many times the average pay of a real Foxconn worker.
26 year old Liu Baoyu is a government clerk (a special class of people in China who are employed by the government and work in government agencies). She has a pale complexion, and always has a smile. But as soon as she thought of her days in Foxconn, her smile disappeared. "This was so absurd. Colleagues were wondering whether I went to Foxconn to commit suicide." As she spoke, she appeared to be very careful, not to be overheard by passersby.
Each government official gets 600 yuan per person recruited, 1,000 yuan for each recruit above the quota, but will be fined 500 yuan for each unfilled quota.
To work in the Chengdu factory while a government clerk has its advantages. She could get two salaries, one from Foxconn and one from the government. But after one month's continuous night shift, Liu Baoyu's health went bad. "All the extra 1130 yuan I got from Foxconn went to hospital payments."What kind of working conditions would make her health deteriote after only one month? And below tells how many workers they are getting:
One day, Liu saw a boy vomiting continuously and looked very pale. Perhaps because of the weather, he was sick. Liu asked him how old he was, and he said he was 15. This was quite common, as many vocational schools sent their young students to Foxconn as apprentices.
April 19, an administrative staff at the Shenzhen headquarters of Foxconn told, "The factory in Chengdu is always hiring, but has never been able to meet the demand. It is normal to get 3,000 to 5,000 people in everyday. Sometimes even 10,000 people get hired in a day."Note that this factory at the time of the report had about 60,000 total employees (they needed about 120,000). If they got 3,000 to 10,000 people in everyday, how long do you think people would stay there on average? A week to a month. In fact, most people leave at their first chance, even before the mandatory 15 days are up.
The adminstrative staff admitted that the recruitment of first line labors has always been done by the government. "Foxconn only needed to report the number of people they want to the Department of Labor of Sichuan Province, and they will coordinate all the resources and continuously get new people into the factory."This is not capticalism. This is not even communism. This is feudalism.
Dongxin District has 10 villages. After they increased the quota, Nahan village's quota went from 5 people to 8 people; Minzhu village's quota went from 5 to 7 people.The mention of "ambulance" is really curious. Why do they need an ambulance (what happened in the past for the government to think that an ambulance was necessary)? Does this description sound like that people are really eager to work in Foxconn?
After completing the recruitment, the local government had to organize an escort team to escort the workers to Foxconn. Dazhouqu County government requires that each unit must select mature and strong, experienced and responsible cadres to escort the workers for the whole trip, to guard against any possible accidents. Guangyuan City government requires that the trip from Guanyuan to Chengdu must have police cars in escort, and must be acompanied by an ambulance.
Because everywhere the recruiment group that worked for "Project No 1" (the government codename for Foxconn recruitment project) had been equiped with people from social security, education, public safety, welfare, communist youth league, woman's association, and labor union, this enabled the recruiment group to utilize these government resources. Last year, Luzhou sent over 12,000 people to Foxconn Chengdu, exceeding their quota. Also in last year, Foxconn Chengdu produced over 2/3 of worldwide iPad.Labor union is a government resource. That's the reality in China.