Foxconn CEO Terry Gou: "What's wrong with sweatshops?"

Terry Gou, the Taiwanese workhorse and savvy Hon Hai Group CEO whose plants in China got him into hot water with a spate of worker suicides, has hit back with a rhetorical question that might get him into more trouble.

Gou was pictured on Taiwanese TV speaking to the select group of Chinese Foxconn workers who were on a paid-for trip to Taiwan to tour the island and see the sights. Everyone was having a grand time until Gou, for some reason, took the accusations that he had been running sweatshops in China with the declaration: “What’s wrong with sweatshops?”

He wasn’t kidding. Having earlier been accused of running sweatshops in China to make products for Apple and other electronics companies, Gou attempted to twist the meaning of the word “sweatshop” and turn it into something positive. He told his employees visiting Taiwan that as far as he was concerned there is “nothing wrong about working hard as long as no laws are broken.”

So, what some might see as a sweatshop conditions, Gou sees as mere hard work for the good of the company and the workers’ pocketbooks.

The group was selected from over a million Foxconn employees in China based on the merit of their performances over the last year, for which they also received an iPhone – which they were probably making – and a cash bonus, too. Meanwhile, workers in Wuhan threatened to jump from the rooftops in protest of poor working conditions.

The chairman smiled to the cameras and said, without missing a beat: “We sweat and bleed, as long as we comply with the law.”

You work hard and you deserve what you earn through hard work. So long live “our sweatshop.” That’s chutzpah, that’s PR spin, that’s Taiwanese nerve!

Taiwan-based Hon Hai has been ”eager to clear itself from labor abuse accusations,” according to media reports in Taipei. Apple even commissioned a private labor watchdog to inspect Foxconn’s plants in China, and according to sources, the watchdog’s findings have been mostly in favor of Hon Hai. Naturally. Welcome to Sweatshop Nation!

Gou told his lucky “sweatshop” workers from the other side of the Strait that “the prosperity of future generations will originate from the sweat of Foxconn employees and the common beliefs in their “blood.”

In other words: blood, sweat and profits.