Additional reports on the Foxconn Taiyuan riot

China Labour Bulletin is quoted in the following articles. Copyright remains with the original publisher

Bloomberg: Foxconn Workers Labor Under Police Watch After Riot Shuts Plant

Reuters:  Foxconn China plant closed after clash involving 2,000

AFP: Foxconn shuts plant after 2,000-person brawl

AP. Apple supplier's factory back up after China brawl

CNBC Straight talk with Bernie Lo: China's Labor Woes


Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Security teams wearing riot helmets and wielding plastic shields marched around a Foxconn Technology Group factory in a show of force after a fight involving 2,000 workers prompted the company to suspend production there.

The campus used by 79,000 workers in Taiyuan, in northern Shanxi province, showed the damage caused by a Sept. 23 clash between laborers from different provinces that left more than 40 people hospitalized. Windows in a bath house, supermarket, arcade and parked cars were shattered as investigators tried to determine how a fight in a dormitory escalated into a riot quelled by hundreds of security guards and police.

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou has moved in recent years to improve conditions at his factories after a spate of suicides and pressure from the company’s largest customer, Apple Inc. Some changes haven’t reached smaller locations such as Taiyuan, workers said. The facility has inferior food, poor sanitation and overcrowded dorms, while security guards are young, poorly trained and too aggressive, workers outside the gates said.

“The guards here use gangster style to manage,” Fang Zhongyang, 23, said outside campus gates. “We are not against following rules but you have to tell us why. They won’t explain things and we feel like we cannot communicate with them.”

Fang, from nearby Henan province, has worked at Foxconn for two years. He started in Shenzhen, the company’s biggest facility, making Apple iPhones and moved to Taiyuan four months ago after being told that Foxconn wasn’t going to make those products there anymore.

‘Fierce’ Guards

One guard, a young woman, yelled at a reporter for interviewing workers near the southern gate and told employees to get back inside. She ordered the reporter to go across the street, saying the space outside the gate was Foxconn property.

“The guards here are fierce,” said a worker identifying himself as Huang, 20.

As he spoke, platoons in green uniforms kept formation inside the campus.

Louis Woo, a spokesman for the Taipei-based company, said he was unaware of the accusations against the security guards.

“If there’s any truth to these allegations, we’ll take severe action against any security guards, even though we don’t hire them directly,” Woo said by phone yesterday.

Foxconn isn’t hiring more security, yet it has asked government officials to help monitor the situation. Woo declined to say what products were made at the Taiyuan factory. The employees interviewed said they made small components.

Poorly Trained

Gou agreed with a management decision to shut production for a day after the Sept. 23 fight, the company said. Foxconn said it expected limited impact on production.

Workers said the fight started in a dormitory and escalated when guards employed by independent contractors responded with excessive force. Such tension is typical in China, said Geoffrey Crothall, a director at rights group China Labour Bulletin.

Factory workers anywhere, beyond Foxconn, never have a good word to say about security guards,” Crothall said yesterday. “Their training is minimal, they’re recruited en masse and the requirements are not much.”

Foxconn employs more than 1.2 million workers in at least 18 countries, including China, Brazil, Taiwan, Vietnam and Mexico. It is the primary supplier of Apple’s iPad and iPhone, Sony Corp.’s PlayStation game console and TVs, and Nintendo Co.’s Wii console.

Bad Food, Dirty Bathrooms

The average worker at the Taiyuan plant is 20 years old, with 65 percent being male and 77 percent coming from local Shanxi province, according to a company official, who declined to be identified because of the police investigation. That’s three years younger than the average worker at Foxconn’s Shenzhen factories producing Apple products, according to a March report from the Fair Labor Association, which audited the company’s working conditions.

Foxconn in August raised salaries by more than 16 percent at a Zhengzhou factory making iPhones and halved the probation period for new workers after the FLA said the company was ahead of schedule in improving conditions. Work hours exceeded targets and legal mandates, the FLA said.

Taiyuan workers start at a monthly salary of 1,800 yuan ($286) and can get a 200-yuan raise after three months. They also get bonuses during Chinese New Year, after six months on the job and after a year. Employees can work as much as 36 hours of overtime a month, the company official said yesterday.

Employees outside the factory said the pay was good, though their living conditions were not. The food was of low quality, dorm rooms had four bunk beds for eight people, and the shared bathrooms weren’t clean.

“The dormitories are too crowded,” said a 24-year-old worker identifying himself as Wang. “I don’t sleep well because it’s noisy. The environment isn’t good.”

--Alexandra Ho, Tim Culpan. Editors: Michael Tighe, Bret Okeson.

By Clare Jim

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, which assembles Apple's iPhones and makes components for top global electronics companies, closed a plant in northern China on Monday after about 2,000 workers staged a riot at a company dormitory.

It was not immediately clear how long the shutdown would last at the plant, which employs about 79,000 people in the Shanxi provincial capital, while police and company officials investigate the cause of the disturbance.

"The plant is closed today for investigation," Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo told Reuters, but a company employee contacted by phone said the closure could last two or three days.

The unrest is the latest in a string of incidents at plants run by Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co and the world's largest contract maker of electronic goods. Hon Hai's Taipei-listed shares fell 1 percent on Monday in a broader market that rose 0.2 percent.

Drawing attention as a supplier and assembler for Apple products, the company has faced allegations of poor conditions and mistreatment of workers at its operations in China, where it employs a total of about 1 million workers.

The company has been spending heavily in recent months to improve the work environment and to raise wages.

In a statement on Monday, Foxconn said the incident escalated from what it called a personal dispute between several employees at around 11 p.m. on Sunday in a privately managed dormitory, and was brought under control by local police at around 3 a.m.

"The cause of this dispute is under investigation by local authorities and we are working closely with them in this process, but it appears not to have been work-related," Foxconn said.

Online comments, however, suggested security guards may have been to blame.

In a posting on the Chinese Twitter-like microblog site Sina Weibo, a user "Jo-Liang" said that four or five security guards beat a worker almost to death, while another user, "Fan de Sa Hai", quoted a friend from Taiyuan as saying that guards beat up two workers from Henan province, which led other workers to set quilts on fire and toss them out of dormitory windows.

The accounts could not be independently confirmed.

China's Xinhua news agency quoted a senior official with the Taiyuan city government as saying investigators initially determined the fight broke out as workers from Shandong Province clashed with those from Henan Province.

The agency reported earlier that some 5,000 police were sent to quash the violence, according to Taiyuan City's public security bureau.

Foxconn cited police as saying 40 people were sent to hospital and a number were arrested, while Xinhua added that three were in serious condition.

Calls to the Taiyuan police were not immediately answered, while an official at the plant declined to comment when reached by telephone.

"Clearly there is deep seated frustration and anger among the employees and no outlet, apart from violence, for that frustration to be released," Geoff Crothall, communication director at China Labour Bulletin, a labour rights group in Hong Kong, said in a statement.

"There is no dialogue and no means of resolving disputes, no matter how minor. So it is not surprising when such disputes escalate into violence."

Foxconn does not confirm which of its plants supply Apple, but an employee told Reuters that the Taiyuan plant is among those that assemble and make parts for Apple's iPhone 5.

In June, about 100 workers went on a rampage at a Chengdu plant in southwestern China.

(Additional reporting by Sally Huang, Ben Blanchard and Ningyi Sun in Beijing; Editing by Jonathan Standing and Ken Wills)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

By Agence France-Presse
Mon, Sep 24 2012

Electronics giant Foxconn, whose vast plants in China churn out products for Apple and other tech firms, shut a factory Monday after a brawl involving some 2,000 workers, officials said.

Around 40 people were injured in the incident in Taiyuan in northern China, which began around 11 p.m. Sunday and was not brought under control by police until four hours later, Foxconn's parent company Hon Hai said.

Pictures posted online, which could not be confirmed, showed crowds of workers, a building with shattered windows, and an overturned police car, among other damage.

"The facility was closed today, just today, in order for an investigation. It will be reopened tomorrow," Hon Hai spokesman Simon Hsing told AFP.

Foxconn is the world's largest maker of computer components and assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, among others. The company has come under the spotlight after suicides and labour unrest at its Chinese plants in the past two years.

The company statement said the trouble began "as a personal dispute between several employees" in a privately managed dormitory for workers at the plant in Shanxi province.

"The cause of this dispute is under investigation by local authorities and we are working closely with them in this process, but it appears not to have been work-related," it said.

Numerous postings on the Sina Weibo microblog, which could not be confirmed by AFP, said the brawl was between factory security guards and workers.

In 2010, at least 13 Foxconn employees in China died in apparent suicides, which activists blamed on tough working conditions, prompting calls for better treatment of staff.

"Foxconn is known to have a very authoritarian management style and discipline is very strict," Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, told AFP.

"When you have a working environment like Foxconn where workers are treated simply as units of production, essentially robots, not human beings... then sometimes violence is the only way out (and) you see minor disputes escalating into violence."

Following the spate of suicides, Foxconn rolled out a series of measures, including wage hikes and safety nets outside buildings, and has since been expanding its workforce throughout China.

In January, workers at a Foxconn plant in Wuhan, in central China, that makes Xbox game consoles for computer giant Microsoft "staged a workplace incident" over a plan to transfer staff, Foxconn said at the time.

About 45 workers resigned afterwards, the company added, offering few details.

Foxconn employs about one million workers in China, roughly half of them based in its main facility in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.

The Taiyuan plant employs 79,000 workers and makes automobile electronic components, consumer electronic components and precision mouldings.

A Taiyuan city government official said the unrest had "quieted down" and was not work-related. City police spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

Copyright 2012  AFP Global Edition

By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese factory owned by the manufacturer of Apple's iPhones has resumed production after a brawl involving some 2,000 workers highlighted chronic labor tensions in a country that prohibits independent unions.

Foxconn Technology Group and police said the cause of the unrest Sunday night was under investigation, but it comes amid a series of violent protests by workers in areas throughout China over grievances about pay and working conditions. Foxconn and police said as many as 2,000 employees were involved and 40 people were reported injured.

Foxconn manufactures Apple Inc.'s new iPhone 5, which debuted last week in the United States and eight other countries, but declined to say whether the one-day suspension would affect supplies of that model. Apple has a three- to four-week backlog of online orders as it ramps up production to meet demand.

News reports and witnesses said the violence that erupted Sunday night in Taiyuan in northern China stemmed from a confrontation between a factory worker and a guard that quickly escalated. One employee reached by telephone said the violence was fueled by anger among factory workers over treatment by Foxconn security guards and managers.

"Foxconn, some supervisors, and security guards never respect us," said the employee, who asked not to be identified by name. "We all have this anger toward them and they (the workers) wanted to destroy things to release this anger."

Production at the Taiyuan factory resumed on Tuesday, according to an employee who answered the phone at the factory's labor office. He would give only his surname, Li.

Labor tensions in China have been aggravated by a slowing economy that is squeezing employers and a communist system that prohibits independent labor unions.

Many factories and other businesses have unions but they must be part of the government-sanctioned All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Workers complain leaders of local branches often are allied with management and fail to stand up for the workforce.

That means grievances over pay, working hours and other conditions spiral into strikes and public protests. In some cases, ACFTU representatives have scuffled with striking employees outside factories.

"They have no other way of voicing their grievances," said Geoffrey Crothall, communications director for China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong organization that promotes employee rights in China. "There are no formal channels of communication or ways of resolving grievances through peaceful negotiation."

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., has faced scrutiny over workers' complaints about wages and working hours. The company raised minimum pay and promised in March to limit hours after an auditor hired by Apple found Foxconn employees were regularly required to work more than 60 hours a week.

Foxconn makes iPhones and iPads for Apple Inc. and also assembles products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

It is one of China's biggest employers, with some 1.2 million workers in factories in Taiyuan, the southern city of Shenzhen, in Chengdu in the west and in Zhengzhou in central China.

Foxconn employees have complained about what some call "military-style" management.
"Workers are expected to obey their manager at all times, not to question but simply to what they are told," Crothall said. "That atmosphere is not conducive to a happy or contented workforce. It's a very dehumanizing way of treating workers."

Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

28 September 2012

Kirk Yang, Head of Asia Tech Hardware Research, Barclays and Geoffrey Crothall, Spokesman, China Labour Bulletin discuss China's role as a world manufacturing hub in view of the mass labor unrest in the country's major supplier to Apple, Foxconn.

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