The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 37      October 15, 2012

Thousands of workers clash with
guards at iPhone plant in China
(front page)
Thousands of workers clashed with security guards at Foxconn Technology Group’s massive industrial complex in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan all night and into the morning of Sept. 24. Company abuse, onerous working conditions and a production drive brought tensions to a high pitch when employees responded to seeing a company guard beat one of their coworkers.

The Taiyuan factory employs 79,000 workers and produces Apple’s iPhone 5, which has just hit the markets worldwide. Apple expects to offload 33 million units during the first production quarter. For workers this means “a peak period” with increased line speed and safety hazards in addition to massive overtime.

The confrontation broke out in company living quarters of the massive plant where the workers reside in dormitories—eight to 12 workers per room.

After security guards dragged a worker into a van and started beating him at around 11 p.m., others came to his aid and the incident quickly grew into a battle involving some 2,000 workers and hundreds of security guards that lasted through the night. By 9 a.m. the following morning the guards had been chased away. Forty workers were taken to the hospital, three in serious condition.

“The guards here use gangster style to manage,“ 23-year-old Fang Zhongyang told Bloomberg News Sept. 27. “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.”

“Foxconn, some supervisors and security guards never respect us,” another worker said to the Associated Press.

This confrontation comes just months after a March protest by workers at the plant against harassment by security guards, long hours and work regulations.

Foxconn, the largest contract electronics manufacturer in the world, employs some 1.2 million workers in facilities throughout China. Its flagship factory in Shenzhen in the south has more than 250,000 workers. The company says the site in Zhengzhou in central China might eventually employ 300,000. Many plants are moving inland where wages are lower than China’s manufacturing hub along its eastern coast.

Foxconn has a record of desperate acts of resistance by workers over the last couple years. In 2010, 18 workers jumped from a factory roof; 14 died. In May 2011 three workers died and 15 were injured from a blast. In January this year 150 workers threatened to jump to their deaths if demands for improved working conditions were not met.

Strikes, skirmishes and other actions have led to increased wages at Foxconn plants throughout the country. In August, monthly full-time wages at the Taiyuan plant rose from $250 to $290. Many factories in China pay only minimum wage, around $200 a month.

The Taiyuan factory loses 400 to 500 workers on an average workday. It usually hires 500 to 700 new workers each day and still has to borrow from Shenzhen and other plants to keep up with demand. The average age of the workers is 20 years old.

China Labor Watch issued a report in June from an investigation into 10 Apple suppliers in China, among them Foxconn’s Shenzhen site.

The workday is generally 11 hours with two half-hour breaks. In peak periods overtime averages five to six hours per day seven days a week. Employees often work several months without a day off.

Apple expects to make $442 in profit per 16 GB iPhone5.
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