Apple supplier Foxconn cuts working hours, workers ask why

LONGHUA, China Fri Mar 30, 2012 6:25am EDT

1 of 3. Workers are seen inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in the southern Guangdong province, in this file picture taken May 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip/Files

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LONGHUA, China (Reuters) - When Chinese worker Wu Jun heard that her employer, the giant electronics assembly company Foxconn, had given employees landmark concessions her reaction was worry, not elation.

Wu, 23, is one of tens of thousands of migrants from the poor countryside who staff the production lines of Foxconn's plant in Longhua, in southern China, which spits out made-to-order products for Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and other multinationals.

Foxconn's concessions, including cutting overtime for its 1.2 million mainland Chinese workers while promising compensation that protects them against losing income, were backed by Apple, which has faced criticism and media scrutiny for worker safety lapses and for using relatively low-paid employees to make high-cost phones, computers and other gadgets.

But at the Foxconn factory gates, many workers seemed unconvinced that their pay wouldn't be cut along with their hours. For some Chinese factory workers - who make much of their income from long hours of overtime - the idea of less work for the same pay could take getting used to.

"We are worried we will have less money to spend. Of course, if we work less overtime, it would mean less money," said Wu, a 23-year-old employee from Hunan province in south China.

Foxconn said it will reduce working hours to 49 per week, including overtime.

"We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important," said Chen Yamei, 25, a Foxconn worker from Hunan who said she had worked at the factory for four years.

"We have just been told that we can only work a maximum of 36 hours a month of overtime. I tell you, a lot of us are unhappy with this. We think that 60 hours of overtime a month would be reasonable and that 36 hours would be too little," she added. Chen said she now earned a bit over 4,000 yuan a month ($634).

Foxconn is one the biggest employers of China's 153 million rural migrants working outside their hometowns. Compared to smaller, mainland-owned factories, workers said, its vast plants are cleaner and safer, and offer more recreation sites.

But even so, for most employees at the Foxconn plant in Longhua, a part of Guangdong province's vast industrial sprawl, life is dominated by the repetitive routine of the production line.

Outside the Foxconn plant, off-duty employees crowded a small shopping mall. Their tightly packed apartment blocks are hemmed by hair salons, snack stores, gaming arcades and Internet "bars", where many while away leisure hours by playing computer games or watching Korean and Hong Kong soap operas.

"I don't go out that much as there is nothing much to do. I do go out for a meal once in a while," said Huang Hai, a 21-year-old man who said he had worked at Foxconn's factory for about two years.

"This is a good company to work for because the working conditions are better than a lot of other small factories."

Huang was waiting for a friend lined up outside the recruitment centre for prospective Foxconn employees.

"I didn't like my first job at Foxconn because it was very repetitive. It was mainly manual work and I had to hammer nails everyday," said Huang. "Now it's better because I work with computers."

(Reporting by Reuters China; Writing by Chris Buckley; Editing by Don Durfee)

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Comments (10)
Harry079 wrote:
The question shouldn’t be how much overtime these people work but how much of it is FORCED overtime?

Some workers like working as many hours as they can get.

When I had a job we could work up to 112 hours in one week. That is actual work hours.

Mar 30, 2012 11:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
bulldancer wrote:
Oh boy, so Iphones and Ipads are going to become more pricey??

Mar 30, 2012 12:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
JoeAlpha100 wrote:
The kek problem is not the workers working overtime too much. It is Apple and Foxccon who squeezed the OEM margin too low and Apple’s profit margin unreasonably high.

The iPhone price could remain unchange and Chinese works earn $1 more per hour, if Apple cuts its profit margin from 33% to 32%.

A 33% or 30% profit margin is already too bloody.

Mar 30, 2012 12:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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