A brief review of SACOM’s seminar on Foxconn’s Incidents

It is our pleasure that Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) had accepted our invitation and gave a seminar for our class on the topic of the Foxconn’s suicides and related labour issues. On 8th April, Miss Debby Chan, a member of SACOM, came to our university and discuss with us what has happened in Foxconn.

During the one-hour seminar, Miss Chan explained the industrial structure of the electronic industry in China. One significant feature is that in the different tiers of supply chain, the relation is very complex in a sense that the same supplier supplies for more than one brand, while each brand also has multiple suppliers. For example, Supplier X has a production contract with Brands A and B, and Brand B may at the same time contract also with Suppliers Y and Z. The result is that it is often difficult to trace responsibility to one brand when one of its suppliers is found with misconduct. This piece of act provides an insight for us to view the issue of corporate social responsibility under a globalized context. Under a global supply chain with complex industrial structure, it becomes more difficult to hold a transnational corporation accountable for any violation of corporate social responsibilities, as such responsibilities are far more indirect than before.

She also shared with us her own research and observation in Foxconn’s new production base in Chengdu. It is at our surprise that she personally went to the production site, pretended to be a worker and stole into the factory buildings. She made some videos at site which show the working environment. The construction of the new production base was not yet so workers had to work with poor facilities. This reminds us the fact that Foxconn has large production bases not only in Shen Zhen, where the serial suicides took place, but also in various parts of China. Labour issues are not only a concern in the city near us, but in each and every Foxconn factories.

Foxconn aside, she informed us another incident of working injury happened in one of the other Apple’s suppliers. It was about the use of poisonous chemicals which result in permanent damages of workers’ nervous system. Such a kind of long term body deterioration is actually a serious concern, as important as those incidents of suicides and physical injuries. Also, we should also notice that Foxconn is not the only Sweatshop in China; nor the only one among the many Apple’s suppliers. Of course, Foxconn does not only supply for apply; whether its other clients should bear some responsibilities is also an issue.

At the end of the seminar, I asked Miss Chan a question: to what extent has the situation of workers worsened in comparison with that in 1980s and 90s, when those HK small-and-medium size enterprises opened factories in China of which facilities were poor and unsafe. Miss Chan’s answer was that there is a general improvement in the situation faced by workers, but there are still a lot to do, by both enterprises and the Chinese government. I basically agree with her observation, but I notice that the rise of global enterprises and large scale production has created a new problem: the destruction of workers’ social life. When Foxconn provides centrally managed dormitory to workers, there is actually an extension of business management to workers’ private life. Since Foxconn has over 900,000 workers in China, such an extension of management is on a very extensive basis. Considering that workers are under strict supervision and have few opportunities to build up an inter-personal network in the workplace, the intrusion of private life by business management risks generating a new social problem which has never been experienced in the past.

To sum up, the seminar with Miss Chan is insightful and informative, providing us with a clear picture of the labour issues in China. It is really my admiration to her that she is willing to experience personally what the Chinese workers have been facing. It is also a pleasure of us to have her sharing those on-site findings. The one-hour seminar is great and unforgettable and it is my wish that Miss Chan and SACOM can further raise the society’s awareness of the importance of workers’ rights, both in China and over the world.

By Christopher Ho

Video of the seminar (in 8 segments)

1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7OiDpCLUpU

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ4Kw9ei4kw

3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbhhkcdNBuE

4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42GswMTXZig

5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJzsws6622Q

6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7UF3r4rkQo

7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoNmx051gRY

8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhIClFM_jSE

Related information

SACOM’s website: http://sacom.hk/

SACOM’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SACOM/125653814129975

Apple Suppliers Responsibility: 2011 Progress Report:http://images.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/pdf/Apple_SR_2011_Progress_Report.pdf


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: