Foxconn is the global electronics manufacturing company, a representative company of the Chaiwan model combining Taiwanese technology and Chinese labour. Especially, this company is making parts for the Iphone, which is popular throughout the whole world. In China it employs a total of 800,000 workers, and in its Shenzhen factory alone it employs 420,000 workers.
Yet it is a horrifying fact that this year from January 24 until May 27, about 13 workers attempted to kill themselves and 10 died, while three have suffered severe injuries, in this model factory. In particular, among these 12 young workers, by choosing to throw their bodies to the ground, showed very clearly the seriousness of the inhumane worker-management relations at the Foxconn factory.
What could have made these workers, who had come from the villages to the city in search of jobs, choose this extreme path? According to media reports, Foxconn model factory sported amenities and facilities such as a cafe, bookstore, movie theatre and even a hospital. Yet the Foxconn workers, for whom the basic income was the minimum wage of 900 yuan, had no choice but to work two shifts, working at least ten hours every day, just to earn a living; and they were forced to work in a stifling atmosphere where they could not even talk to their colleagues during working hours. Moreover not only were there 85 reasons that one could get fired, but verbal and physical abuse from the guards and management happened frequently.
Still, at first the company did not respond seriously to the workers’ suicides, and after evading the issue and the problem got more grave, on May 26 the CEO Taiming Guo stepped forward to give a public apology. However immediately after the public apology there was yet another suicide by jumping from a building, and it was shown that the situation could not be resolved with out a clear strategy.
Korean civil society and labour organizations feel deeply sad about the Foxconn workers’ tragedy, and we want to point out that behind the struggle of the Foxconn workers as well as the Chinese Honda factory and other factories’ workers, is the monstrous nature of companies that treat workers like trifling objects. The companies advancing into China think that even if they pay workers low salaries and repress them, there are always more workers available. As long as they don’t stop counting their profits like this, the casual response of Foxconn management can always be repeated: “Compared to China’s national suicide rate, 13 suicides out of a huge factory of 420,000 is not that significant.”
This base nature of capital is the same in Samsung Semiconductors, which says “compared to the whole population, if 50-odd workers in their twenties and thirties die of cancer in a factory with tens of thousands of workers, it’s not significant.”
Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple known as an icon of innovation, is no different either. He gave supporting words to the CEO of his subcontracting factory, saying that Foxconn is not an exploiter of workers. But as the deaths of the workers who out of desperation threw away their own lives continued, those CEOs could not avoid having to come forward and apologize to the workers and promise to take corrective measures.
If the blood and tears of the workers hidden behind the cutting edge electronics product like Iphone were not revealed, and if we don’t fight together in solidarity, these kinds of tragedies will only continue, and the capital will continue to move around the world searching for cheaper and more docile workers.
In order to warn capital that it has nowhere else to escape, and that it cannot survive as long as it keeps treating workers like disposable objects, we need to build the international solidarity of the workers. Let’s make our living and working places a place where people can live properly as human beings, through the strong international solidarity of workers, so that the workers’ deaths would not have been in vain!
Action Committee for Reinstatement of Laid-off Samsung Workers
Association for Research on Occupational Health
Association of Victims of Occupational Injuries
Chungnam Joint Committee about Leukemia in Samsung
Coalition for Elimination of Occupational Injury in Masan, Changwon, and Geoje
Coalition for Elimination of Occupational Injury in Ulsan
Dasan Human Rights Center
Democratic Labor Party (Gyeonggi local)
Dongwoo Fine Chem Union Chapter of KMWU
Gyeonggi Informal Labor Center
Gyeonggi Law center of KCTU
Gyeonggi Local branch of KCTU
High Tech RCD Korea Branch of KMWU
Inchon Association of Victims of Occupational Injuries
Kiryung Electronics Chapter of KMWU
Korea House of International Solidarity
Korea Institute of Labor Safety and Health
Korean Metal Workers Union(KMWU)
National Association of Professors for Democratic Society
New Progressive Party (Gyeonggi local)
Preparatory Committee for Socialist Workers Party (Gyeonggi local)
Socialist Party (Gyeonggi local)
Solidarity for worker’s health
Supporters for Health And Right of People in Semiconductor industry(SHARPS)
The Solidarity for Healthy Labor World
The Solidarity for Healthy Labor World
Wonjin Labor Safety and Health Education Center