Man with half a brain exposes Foxconn

Apple’s number one chum in China, Foxconn, continues to suffer from a bad case of PR disaster over its handling of Zhang Tingzhen.

Zhang lost half his brain in an industrial accident at one of Foxconn’s biggest plants. After the case first appeared in the foreign media, you would have have expected Foxconn would do its utmost to make the poor PR go away.

Instead it insisted that Zhang travel, against his doctor’s advice, to a disability assessment 70 kilometres away in Huizhou. The reason is that while Tingzhen is in a hospital in Shenzhen where the plant was, Foxconn wants to make it appear he was hired in Huizhou. Labour rates are cheaper in Huizhou which means that if Foxconn has to pay out it will have to pay much less.

To make sure that Zhang went to Huizhou the company said it would stop paying hospital care for him until he did what he was told.

His father, Zhang Guangde, sued Foxconn and presented evidence to a court which proved that he was hired in Shenzhen.

But in doing so Foxconn revealed another of its more dodgy labour practices.

According to labour activists, it showed up the fact that Foxconn had been signing work contracts with employees in inner Chinese cities, where wages and compensations levels are relatively low, and then deployed them to work in more expensive cities.

This has been seized on in the foreign press  as proof that Foxconn’s gear is made in a Dickensian sweat shop with the company being a 21st century example of Josiah Bounderby.

Given the amount of dosh it would have taken to settle the case, and even appear mildly “nice” to Zhang for the PR, the company’s intractability just seems insane.

It certainly makes Apple, which has championed its use of Foxconn, instead of using more expensive US staff, look jolly bad too.