Apple keyboard wage-slaves go on strike in China

Contracted Chinese Apple and IBM workers are striking over terrible working conditions at a factory in Shenzhen. 

Working up to 120 hours of overtime each month in a dangerous environment just isn’t worth it, the staff argue, especially when you consider the mass lay-offs of older workers, zero benefits, and the verbal abuse they get from the management.

1,000 workers began a strike at Jingmo Electronics Corporation’s Shenzhen factory, reports China Labor Watch. It’s owned by Taiwanese Jinguan Computer Group, which mostly focuses on peripherals for multinationals that have included Apple, IBM and LG.

The chief instigator for the strike was enforced nightly overtime. Workers were having to work additional hours, from 6pm up until as late as 2am, along with their regular work hours of 7am-11.30 am, then 1-5pm. Some solace would be found among workers by letting them take shifts on Saturdays, but the factory has denied them this opportunity because they would be entitled to double wages.

The workers claim that the management is demanding too much from them. Leaving their posts, they moved towards National highway 107 to block it off in protest. Local authorities called up hundreds of police officers to keep an eye on the group, and among them were riot police, according to China Labor Watch.

China Labor Watch is urging factory clients, in particular Apple, to take the problem up with the company. Apple has 300 workers on the factory’s keyboard assembly line. 

China Labor Watch director Li Qiang said that the factory itself must change its brutal management system as workers become aware of their rights.

The strikes are part of a rising trend for workers in China who are growing weary of being treated poorly and paid a pittance. PC components suppliers are already worrying that provinces like Guangdong and Jilin are increasing minimum wages and forcing firms that rely on cheap labour out of pocket. 

Chip market analyst Malcolm Penn, of Future Horizons, told us earlier this year that low labour costs are a myth. “It goes from place to the next,” he said. “You bleed it dry and then it will occur somewhere else. When it is too expensive in China companies will go somewhere else, that is just the nature of economics.”

Manufacturers are trying to find a way around the headache of paying people money, and so companies like Pegatron and Foxconn are planning to increase automation in their plants. Making use of automation is a strange move for Foxconn boss Terry Gou, who has been quoted as saying “Hungry people have especially clear minds”.