Following two rooftop protests by workers this year at its Wuhan subsidiary, Foxconn has drafted an agreement (承诺书) under which its management staff promise not to instigate, organize or participate in any disruptive activities, the Boxun news network reported.
The agreement also prevents staff from releasing any unauthorised information about the company or doing anything to harm its reputation. Any infraction of the rules will result in punishment, it said.
The focus on management staff, including junior and line managers, probably stems from concerns that junior managers are becoming more active in labour disputes and are instigating and encouraging production workers to stage strikes and protests. The nationwide strike at Pepsi bottling plants late last year for example is believed to have been organized by lower level managerial staff, while a protest at a Dongguan shoe factory around the same time was triggered by the sacking of 18 managerial staff.
Lower-level managers are usually better educated and more adept at using social media tools than ordinary production workers, and also have more time and opportunities to encourage and organize protests. Moreover, managerial staff usually have more to lose and more to gain in disputes over pay and working conditions, whereas production line workers always have the option of finding another job if conditions at their current employer are unfavourable.
The agreement at Foxconn’s precision engineering plant in Wuhan also made managers promise to protect and care for their staff and resolve legitimate complaints through approved channels. This follows well publicised complaints by Foxconn production line workers that their life could be made a misery by overbearing and abusive line managers.
Following the recent audit of Foxconn facilities in China by the Fair Labor Association, Foxconn agreed to address the lack of an effective workers’ voice at its factories by increasing worker participation in trade union activities but at present it seems all the company is doing is trying to prevent managers’ abuses of power from escalating into collective protests by making those managers more accountable.