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back to article Workers worry about pay cuts from Apple, Foxconn pact

Labor-conditions activists and feel-good petitioners may be pleased with Apple's agreement with contract-manufacturing giant Foxconn to cut back on workers' overtime, but there's another affected class that's not as pleased with the outcome: the workers themselves. "We are worried we will have less money to spend," Foxconn …

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Facepalm

I'm sure the workers who get sent back to 80+ hours a week in the rice paddies will be grateful for all the "help".

It still amuses me that the Foxconn suicides which started this whole mess were still far below the suicide rate in China as a whole. The workers were LESS prone to off themselves than their agrarian bretheren, yet we still insisted on meddling in their lives.

I hope it was worth it when these displaced workers start offing themselves next fall.

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Anonymous Coward

There will be pay cuts, working hours have been reduced and pay has not increased.

However the short fall in working hours will be met by increasing staffing, the benefit... No extra overtime hours, no extra cash, no time and a half to pay out.

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Did you miss the part where they mentioned Foxconn was looking at automation to reign in costs?

PINK SLIPS FOR ALL! HUZZAH!!!

It's a repeat of what happened to manufacturing in the USA. The labor pool got too pricey and those jobs went *poof* in a puff of automation and relocation.

Oh well, I'm sure the impoverished in Vietnam and Africa are looking forward to their new jobs... After all, 60 hours a week in a factory is better than 80+ hours a week in a farm field.

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Anonymous Coward

The real question is that these people are getting only paid 350 to 450 dollars per month for their efforts. That is why factory jobs are leaving the US in droves. But if US workers accepted those slave labour wages, they would slowly starve to death in the streets. Free trade agreements passed by the United States made this possible. These agreements put workers in high wage countries into a bidding war against workers in low wage countries. Who knows, workers in both countries might wind up killing themselves en mass. But don't worry, Apple Computers and the upper one percent will probably survive.

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FAIL

"The real question is that these people are getting only paid 350 to 450 dollars per month for their efforts."

Do remember that the cost of living in China is nowhere near that in the USA. $350-400 buys them an awful lot more than it would in many other countries, and is actually comfortably above the average for factory workers in that part of the world.

Doesn't change the fact that the jobs have gone from the US to China, but what Foxcomm pays is certainly NOT "slave labour wages"

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Bronze badge

The simple fact of the matter is that these people are being exploited heavily, and some companies are getting rich off of the back of their work. Apple and other outsourced manufacturing companies could well afford to pay their factory workers a decent wage given their profits.

That these workers will be simply dropped in the dirt says quite a lot about the respect that the senior management has for their workforce.

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Anonymous Coward

it would take until July of next year

They are bringing the overtime working into line with the law but putting off doing so for iver a year, because it would be inconvenient to do it straight away.

So much for the law.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: it would take until July of next year

The law in China is not what you think it is :)

It's quite bendy and pragmatic. Served them well so far.

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Anonymous Coward

I want one of those jobs

only 36 hours of OT a month? ONLY?!

You sure that isn't per week? This is China after all. First world private employers expect more OT hours than 36/month from salaried workers. You want to work less, buy a cushy government 9-5 job. Or move to China.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I want one of those jobs

Bollocks.

That is all.

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Re: I want one of those jobs

36 hrs per month x 12 months / 50 working weeks year = ~8.64 hrs of overtime a week.

Assuming 40 hr std work weeks, that is ~48.64 hrs a week, or ~31.36 hours *less* than I work in an average week.

Even if China allows 60 hr workweeks before overtime pay kicks in, it is still 11.36 hours less than I work in an average week.

I sure as hell don't get overtime pay; and if I understand correctly, they are making so much above national average as to be reasonably considered upper middle class. (By the standards of their society.)

Sounds perfectly reasonable! Now, the n-hexane, child labour and other things are pants, (and someone needs to scream loudly about them,) but the hours and pay sound pretty damned good to me.

Yes, the raw salary seems low by our standards. But the cost of living (goods, property, services, etc) are so much lower there that there is no reason to suspect that someone making a middle-class chinese salary doesn't live a life roughly as affluent (in terms of posession of material goods) and horrible wasteful as my own.

If the cost of bread/rice/iPhones/rent/etc. is 10x less, you need 10x less income to achieve the same quality of life.

I can't claim to know enough variables about the Chinese economy to know if these folks are really getting a raw deal or now. The information just isn't available to me.

But harping on about how many hours they have to work isn't earning sympathy points here. They seem to work about as many as I do, maybe less.

(Understand that I am not complaining about my hours here; I do what needs be done to pay the bills. This is just a discussion of facts, not a whinge fest.)

And at least they have a job. 30 million able bodied individuals of working age on my continent can't say the same.

Perspective. We need it.

There are legitimate workplace issues in China to get out panties in a bunch over. Hours worked is not one.

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Meh

Re: I want one of those jobs

Hi,

Nice to meet you. I'm the perspective.

I live, emigrated, really, to China. Here the laws are rather bendy, and it did serve and continues to serve them well. This 'let's go for the gray area' has it's drawback: poor quality in high precision manufacturing for example.

The research shows that accidents happen at an exponential rate once people start working more then 60 hours a week. This results in unhappy companies, employees and poor quality for the rest of us. To stop all this is the intent of this law.

Electronics largely remain a luxury commodity here in China and are therefore more expensive by a rough 20% more than what you would pay in America for the same thing.

But, cutting your hair here will take you back 75 cents us, a quick hop at the food stalls maybe an additional us dollar, etc. The food is very cheap and so is everything requiring low skills manual labor, including computer repairs and car repairs. Hence, living here is quite cheap. The theater etc. all are quite cheap to accommodate the median income which is quite lower than what you or I make in China.

Apple desires quality above employee safety, of course. This time they are lucky, they can have their cake and eat it too.

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Pint

Re: I want one of those jobs

Hey...thanks for the insights! Learning is good.

Cheers!

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Economics

Although foxconn may be able to replace lost worker-hours just by getting more workers and paying them less overtime, this will also mean there are more workers required and thus they will be at more of a premium - normally the laws of economics would dictate that rates for *all* workers will rise.

What with that and having to build dormitories etc it's clear costs will rise. Thus there is more chance of us in the west being able to compete

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Re: Economics

Since the labor pool is vastly larger than the openings at Foxconn, price will not rise because supply heavily outweighs demand for the labor.

As far as the dormitories making the west more competitive, I wouldn't count on it. Even the US minimum wage is nearly double what Foxconn workers make, and the labor pool for minimum wage jobs in the US is less than employable. Those losses would more than make up for the cost of the additional dorms.

On to Vietnam and Africa!!!!

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Re: Economics

Interestingly, that isn't the case. China's spare Labour market is, apparently, largely tapped out. Foxconn is getting ahead of the game by raising salaries because that means it'll be paying more to its workers than other companies, and therefore it won't be plagued by labour shortage.

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FAIL

Foxconn just visible

Considering China is famous for slave labor and child labor in firework factories (which in the west we only hear about when they go boom) the only reason this is news is because of the Apple angle. Compared to most people in the third world sadly Foxconn workers are probably pretty lucky.

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Anonymous Coward

Alternative view

Sky have photos of actual Foxconn workers protesting about the conditions who have welcomed these changes

http://news.sky.com/home/business/article/16199224

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Re: Alternative view

Indeed, a useful corrective to implications of the article's subheading. Ironically enough I have experienced such working conditions in the UK. When I left school as an eighteen year old I got my first job as a porter (in practice a general labourer - carrying luggage was not part of my duties -:P) on BR (we are in the early seventies here) at a central London station. The wages were so piss poor that if you were on a basic 40 hr week day shift BR paid you an extra (very small) allowance because you would otherwise have been entitled to claim off the social. In order to make ends meet I worked 12 hour nights for six nights a week and an eight hour night shift on Sundays. Even after that the pay packet was still below (well below) national averages at the time. I did that for three and half years before moving on. The attitudes of my workmates were divided. Some would much have preferred a somewhat better hourly rate and more time with their families (even if that meant that they did not earn the same amount as with the existing system) and others were prepared to work as many hours as they could get even if (like the Foxconn workers) it had meant literally living at work. With such a huge workforce as Foxconn's it is scarcely surprising that opinion is divided amongst the employees - an issue that the article should have mentioned.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Alternative view

> Sky have photos of actual Foxconn workers protesting about the conditions who have welcomed these changes

Where? The only protesters shown in that article are not Foxconn workers, they're SACOM protesters, a labour rights organisation in Hong Kong.

Also interesting that all products shown in the Foxconn factory video are NOT Apple devices.

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iSlave 3.0 (Trademark Registered)

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Anonymous Coward

haters gonna hate but

It's hard to paint Apple as the bad guys here. Asking their suppliers to work within the countries laws can only be sensible given all the international press they got over working conditions.

If the workers are not happy with the limits of the law they really need to take that up with their government.

I'm not saying all laws are good, not by a long way, many need challenging, but letting employers ignore labour laws is not normally a good thing for the workers in the long run..

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Still, people only committing suicide at lower the rates. What kind of moron would use that sorry excuse as a valid reason for treating people like shit.

Oh hang on, it was Figgus, what a clod.

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FAIL

@Jeebus:

"Still, people only committing suicide at lower the rates. What kind of moron would use that sorry excuse as a valid reason for treating people like shit."

The much-publicised suicide incident was at a factory making stuff for Microsoft. (You've heard of the XBox360 games console, I assume? Guess which well-known Chinese manufacturer makes them! That's right: Foxconn!)

Apple do not own Foxconn. Foxconn's employees are the sole responsibility of Foxconn and Foxconn alone. If you don't like China's labour laws (and their minimal enforcement), complain to the Chinese government.

As has been repeatedly pointed out: Chinese workers are queuing up to work for Foxconn, because they're offering better deals than any of their competitors. And there are lots of competitors.

If people really gave a gnat's chuff about Chinese workers, why are so many of them STILL buying stuff that's stamped "Made in China"? Foxconn also make stuff for Dell, Nokia, HTC and many, many others. Apple aren't even their biggest customer by volume; they're just their most famous customer.

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Re: @Jeebus:

Moronic reasoning, and teenage justifications. This is a site supposedly for professionals and the best you have is that because others are shit that makes it okay.

No wonder the UK is in such a state when people like you can be considered educated and professional.

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Re: @Jeebus:

While I like this action and do think they shouldn't work excessive overtime, I think you're wrong because who is to say your way is right?

Just because your country does things one way doesn't mean they all have to. If those people are genuinely happy to work longer and make more money then maybe they should be allowed.

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Re: @Jeebus:

So taking the fact you cannot argue the point made in my previous post you've slightly altered tack with subtle implications I'm Imperialistic/Ivory tower bred.

Grow up, driving people to suicide is not okay by any standards in the history of the universe.

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Re: @Jeebus:

"Grow up, driving people to suicide is not okay by any standards in the history of the universe."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seppuku

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Defect Rate

I imagine that one true metric of whether the OT hours truly are bad for individual employees is the reject/defect/error rate.

How many phones are binned/rejected for technical errors in assembly? How many have defects due to human hands? How many packaging tools-or-wiping-items--shouldn't-be-packaged-with-the-phone errors are there?

I have no idea, so, I'm asking. In some companies, ruthless, mandatory overtime might induce people to black out, damage products, or die from poor health. This leads to another question: How many employees do not return, due to eroded health, new organ problems, or mental burn-out due to the mandatory overtime?

And, how many of them are single or married? I imagine that Foxconn hires mostly or only singles for work on the factory floor. I imagine sex in the dorms (one of my Chinese friends likens the dorms to "jails"/"prisons" because he says many of the workers are restricted to the buildings... that, to me, may be unlikely unless it is a probationary thing. Otherwise, how would they spend their earning? Or, are they working to save and to wire money to their parents, but don't care about leaving the perimeter of the city-factory?) simply because un-terminated pregnancies means employees involved could be even more distracted and the living arrangements coordinators have to reshuffle people if they are assigned by shifts.

Say, speaking of which... I wonder if their factory dorms are hot-bunked like subs and ships of old, but some surge/illness quarters thrown in for good measure. Would save a lot on construction costs.

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"We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important," said four-year Foxconn employee Chen Yamei.

At first glance I thought that read "four-year-old Foxconn employee".

Wouldn't surprise me.

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Anonymous Coward

Ya think?

At slave labor rates those folks don't have a snowball chance in Hell.

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The rest of the world is just like me...

I find it strange how so many people use only their own experiences as a yard stick to judge others and their situations. It also seems the more narrow minded the meddler the more vocal they are.

Does the working situation need to change is places like China? Dunno, I know I wouldn't want to work in some of the environments; but isn't this something the Chinese people have to resolve and not outsiders sitting in their ivory towers?

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Re: The rest of the world is just like me...

@Mahou Saru

So true.

Seems the most selfish and self-centred individuals, with the narrowest experiences of the variety of human existence, are often the most vocal and judgemental in this kind of forum.

Technical topics, comments like 'I have briefly looked at pictures of Windows 8 Metro and would rather sell my firstborn than replace Windows XP' are easily passed by, maybe with a hint of guilt at laughing at those who may be of a 'special needs' persuasion.

When its about peoples lives, I do wish people could open their minds more.

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Windows

!!!!

"We think that 60 hours of overtime a month would be reasonable and that 36 hours would be too little"

OVERTIME??? Did I read correctly??? Can't be correct. Surely?

Plus,

"We are worried we will have less money to spend". But more time to spend it...

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Mushroom

Spain, Apple thinks you are slackers

Dear Spain,

Please explain to "The Economic Man" that you abandoned the siesta because the late hours were hurting your families and not because you couldn't "compete globally" taking a 3 hour lunch.

After you've explained, throw his disingenuous ass in jail.

Thanking you in advance,

Gannon

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Joke

Automation

" Foxconn is working to cut labor costs by replacing some workers with robots over the next three years..."

The timetable has stretched out a bit, as it's proven difficult to teach the robots how to fling themselves off the roof.

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Anonymous Coward

Move production to the U.S.

U.S. companies need to move production back to the U.S. and China needs to create a sustainable economy of their own.

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Re: Move production to the U.S.

Maybe less of the insularism and more trying to understand each others cultures and situations would lead to a "type 1" culture, rather then everyone trying to lead lives which this planet doesn't have the resources to sustain.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Move production to the U.S.

If your country over produces offspring then you need to rethink your philosophy of life and stop expecting other countries to bail your arse out when you exhibit irresponsible behavior.

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More time to spend

I agree with the workers. In the last decade I spent most of my time working away from home in the week, I was paid hourly and was more than happy to work overtime. The alternative was having to find ways to fill time in a hotel or a strange town. This invariably lead to spending more money.

Its a way of working that doesn't fit the traditional model that people are trying to judge it by. People work for a short, few years, at a max away from home with the aim of maximising their earnings and return on the time spent. As long as the people have made the decision to work in this way without coercsion and in full acceptance of the facts what is the problem?

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