Foxconn Entangled in Labor Rights Inquiries

The father of a brain-damaged former Foxconn worker sued the world’s biggest electronics manufacturer this Tuesday. Tan Ee Lyn at Reuters reveals the shady tactics played by Foxconn in such worker compensation disputes:

The case involves Zhang Tingzhen, a 26-year-old engineer who had nearly half his brain surgically removed after surviving an electric shock a year ago.

His plight came to light after Reuters reported that Taiwan firm Foxconn sent telephone text messages to his family telling them it would cut off funding for his treatment and other expenses if they did not remove him from hospital in Shenzhen city and submit him for a disability assessment 70 km (43 miles) away in Huizhou, where the company says he was hired.

But his father, Zhang Guangde, is contesting that and says his son was hired in Shenzhen, not Huizhou, where wages and compensation levels are substantially lower than in Shenzhen.

[…] Labour activists say Zhang’s case highlights a common practice among large companies in China, which sign work contracts with employees in inner Chinese cities, where wages and compensations levels are relatively low, and then deploy them to work in more expensive cities.

Meanwhile, after Foxconn recently admitted to using underage laborers on its assembly lines, David Pierson at the Los Angeles Times examines local governments’ role in such labor rights violations:

The controversy also highlights the role of China’s vocational schools, which labor activists say are paid by companies to provide them with low-wage factory hands.

“The basic point of the system is to provide cheap labor to manufacturers,” said Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong nonprofit promoting workers’ rights. “Ideally, you go to vocational school to learn a trade so that you’re in a good position to get a job when you graduate. In reality, the vocational schools make money by sending kids to factories. It’s a fairly manipulated form of labor available to manufacturers whenever they need it.”

[…] Many vocational schools are run by local authorities, who are eager to help major employers such as Foxconn fill their assembly lines, especially during peak production periods. In return, vocational schools are paid about $100 for each intern they provide to a factory, according to the New York-based China Labor Watch.

[…] ”None of us wanted to work there, but we had no choice,” said another of the interns, a lanky 15-year-old with a peach-fuzz crew cut assigned to put finished PlayStations into boxes. “You can’t fight the school and the system.”

See more on Foxconn via CDT.