1,000 Foxconn Workers Strike

Workers at a factory owned by the electronics maker in Beijing protest ahead of the Spring Festival.

china-foxconn-strike-negotiation-305.jpg Striking workers at the Foxconn factory in Beijing negotiate with management, Jan. 2013.
Photo courtesy of a Foxconn factory worker

Around 1,000 workers at a Beijing factory belonging to Foxconn, maker of Apple's iPhone, walked out this week amid a dispute over end-of-year holiday privileges and bonuses, a company manager said on Wednesday.

"It was on the 21st and 22nd, and the numbers were at their largest [on Tuesday]," said a manager surnamed Liang at the Foxconn factory in Beijing's Daxing district.

"There were ... 1,000 workers involved in the strike, but there are more than 10,000 employed through the whole factory."

The strike comes after a series of labor incidents at Foxconn's factories in recent years, including a string of worker suicides.

The company, which is the world's largest contract maker of electronic goods, has been slammed for poor working conditions and mistreatment of employees at its China facilities, but says it has spent heavily to improve conditions and to raise wages.

Overtime ahead of Spring Festival

Liang said the workers were angry at being expected to work overtime ahead of the Chinese New Year, known in mainland China as the Spring Festival, when hundreds of millions of people make the trip home to celebrate with their families.

"They were unhappy with the overtime situation which is very bad, and the low pay," he said. "So they went on strike."

"A lot of people go home for Spring Festival, so we are short-staffed with a lot of work to do," Liang said. "They were having to put in 12- or 13-hour shifts every day."

He said some workers who hadn't been there a whole year didn't yet qualify for home leave, and were left behind to work overtime instead.

Liang said all the workers had resumed work on Wednesday.

Year-end bonuses

Photographs posted to China's social media sites showed workers sitting round a table, talking to management, while others showed a large crowd of workers crowded into the factory canteen, reportedly waiting for a result.

According to Sina Weibo user @zhubaov, many of the Foxconn workers were also unhappy about their year-end bonuses, particularly those who were ranked highly for their productivity.

"We wanted to make our voices heard and our wishes known, and to get our money, which we earned with our own sweat and blood," the user wrote.

"We never did anything illegal or anything to disturb public order, so why did they send in the police?"

Jiangxi strike

The strike at the Beijing factory came just days after reports of a similar dispute at a Foxconn-linked plant in Fengcheng, in eastern Jiangxi province.

According to the Hong Kong-based watchdog Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), more than 1,000 workers took to the streets in a strike over working conditions at the factory, which Foxconn said was a supplier.

Workers have said during previous disputes that a typical working day at Foxconn can  last 12 hours, including time for meals, and workers typically earned a salary of 2,000 yuan (U.S. $317) per month when they had just started at the plant.

Last September, riot police were called out to stem unrest involving around 2,000 workers at Foxconn's plant in the northern city of Taiyuan, in which at least 40 people were injured. Unconfirmed reports later denied by the company said between seven and 10 people had died.

Taiwan-owned Foxconn Technology Group is the world's largest producer of computer components. It assembles products for electronics brand names like Apple, Sony, Intel and Nokia, and employs about one million workers in China.

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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