Foxconn workers threaten mass suicide

More than 300 Chinese workers threatened mass suicide after Foxconn reneged on its agreement to give them proper working conditions and a salary.

According to ZDNet, the workers were talked down by the Mayor of Wuhan, but the protest is being seen as a watershed in Chinese employee relations.

For years Foxconn has used its Chinese plants to keep employment costs low, so that the likes of Apple and to a lesser degree Microsoft can make their products cheaply.

After a string  of suicides by workers at the Longhua Plant, Shenzhen, Apple carried out an investigation into the plant’s operations. Foxconn later installed nets to stop workers killing themselves.

The current row has been caused after employees had sought a pay rise but this was denied by Foxconn management, which feared that it would jack the prices of gadgets up for wealthy westerners.

The company then offered staff a choice between continuing to work at current rates or taking a compensated dismissal package. Many workers chose the latter, but Foxconn reneged on the package.

If it did such a thing in the west it would have been sued into a coma, but it seems that Foxconn believes that it can do what it likes in China. All it would take is for Apple or Microsoft customers to organise a product boycott on ethical grounds and Foxconn would be forced to act.

But Foxconn manufactures the iPad 2 and the Xbox, which westerners seem desperate to queue for no matter how much blood is spilt making them. The recent protest shows the extent of desperation and anger among the Chinese workforce at their treatment. It’s looking like their introduction to capitalism is proving to be an embarrassment.

The antics of Foxconn are having a negative effect on China as a source of cheap labour. Workers are getting increasingly more militant across the country and are starting to flex industrial muscle.