On November 16, 8:00AM Beijing time, around 1000 Foxconn dispatch workers gathered at the main entrance of Foxconn Area C to protest, requesting the issue of dispatch companies owing workers their promised rewards to be addressed. The Chinese government sent more than 100 police to control the protest. At around 11:00AM, police sent a dozen buses to take workers to other areas to negotiate issues with dispatch companies and Foxconn. Currently, workers are onboard the police bus.Chengdu Foxconn manufactures iPad and Iphone watch. Workers began their rights defense actions at the beginning of November. Everyday, over 100 workers protested at the Foxconn factory’s main entrance. On November 13, worker activists had the written slogan: “Foxconn’s Dispatch Companies are Dishonest and Are Taking Workers’ Hard Earned Money”.
The dispatch workers who participated in this protest are employed by Tianzao, Yongxinghe, Siyang, and other dispatch companies. Until now, they have not received their owed wages and promised rewards from August, September and October. At the start of November, there was a call for rights defense actions circulating among Foxconn workers on Wechat, calling on dispatch workers from the Tianzao, Yongxinghe, Siyang and other dispatch companies, and those who did not receive their August, September and October rewards to defend their rights and claim their owed wages. Chengdu Foxconn has many issues:
Working at Foxconn without a contract
Chengdu Foxconn usually outsources the recruitment of workers to a large number of labor dispatch companies. This means that a lot of workers are attracted to the high rewards and bonuses promised by intermediaries during peak season. These intermediaries then introduce workers to dispatch companies, who then sign a contract with workers. The workers are subsequently sent to the Chengdu Foxconn factory to work. Sometimes, workers are transferred back and forth between the intermediaries and dispatch companies. By doing this, Foxconn does not need to sign a contract with workers who are working on their production line. Therefore, when a lot of workers who have been deceived leave their jobs, a large labor force that is not aware of these insider tactics and traps can still be supplied to Foxconn to work. At the same time, Foxconn has avoided the basic legal responsibilities that an employer should bear. If workers are owed wages or forced to work, they cannot sue Foxconn in court as they have not signed a contract with the factory. Some workers said:”Foxconn needs to recruit workers, but does not sign a labor contract with them. They do this so that they can oppress workers more, and workers are only treated as slave labor. From using rewards to lure workers into the factory, to entrapping and oppressing workers, and then finally kicking them out, this behaviour is no different to a pyramid scheme. These actions only have one additional production element, the purpose is the same.”
How did these owed wages come about?
Regular workers at Chengdu Foxconn earn 11.49RMB/hour ($1.75USD/hour). Dispatch workers are paid according to hourly wages, of between 24 to 35RMB/hour ($3.65 – $5.32USD/hour). According to a dispatch worker at Foxconn, procedures for the payment of wages is that Foxconn pays dispatch workers the standard hourly rate for regular workers. Foxconn will also give dispatch companies a reward for helping them recruit workers. Dispatch companies usually use a portion of this reward to pay dispatch workers their owed wages.
Workers’ base wages are insufficient in sustaining their livelihoods. Chengdu Foxconn’s workers’ base wages are only 2000 RMB ($303.82USD). In the first month, there are deductions to workers’ wages including 400RMB ($60.76USD) in meals, 110RMB ($16.71USD) in utilities, 315RMB ($47.40USD) in social insurance, 50RMB ($7.60USD) for the physical examination, 20RMB ($3.04USD) for the dormitory key deposit, 15RMB ($2.28USD) to take photos. In total, around 900RMB ($136.72USD) is deducted, so workers only earn 1100RMB ($167.10USD) in wages. If workers have to support their family, spouses or parents, or if they need to pay off their housing loan, then the wages are far from enough for just normal living expenses.
Many workers are more willing to work at Chengdu Foxconn as dispatch workers via the dispatch company instead of applying to become a regular worker, because of the high rewards. As such, there are a large number of dispatch workers at the factory. One worker said that in the 80 workers he’d come across, there were only 15 regular workers and the remaining 65 workers were dispatch workers. And among the 15 regular workers, 12 were management staff and only 3 were real production level workers. When a factory employs dispatch workers, they do not need to purchase social insurance and the housing fund for workers, and do not have to take responsibility for work injuries.
Dispatch companies find various ways not to pay owed wages Many dispatch companies do not comply with the agreement to pay workers their promised additional hourly wages, and use various reasons not to pay. For example, on November 14, a female worker went to the dispatch company “Baiwang Service Studio” to ask for her owed wages and she discovered that the office was empty without a person in sight. There were only a few sofa chairs and a coffee table. She definitely will not be able to receive the owed wages.
Another dispatch worker mentioned that the dispatch company that employed him said Foxconn did not give them the list of dispatch worker names, hence his additional wages were still unpaid. When he was recruited, the dispatch company promised that they would pay him in full the day after Foxconn paid workers their wages. But it had been a month, and he still had not received his wages from the dispatch company.
There are two ways in which wage theft occurs for dispatch workers. The first is not paying workers their promised rewards. For the rewards, dispatch companies request workers to sign a contract where the base wages will be paid, and promises that the worker will be paid a 6000-8000RMB ($911.47 – $1215.29USD) reward after they have worked 55 days at the factory. After workers have stayed at the factory for 55 days, dispatch workers would say that they need to wait for the list of worker names who will receive rewards and during this time, workers need to continue to be employed at the factory. When workers ask for their rewards, they are told that the list of names has not been published yet, and this takes a month or longer. During this time, workers are forced to continue to keep working at the factory to wait for their rewards with some workers forced to work for two months or longer. The second method is when dispatch companies request workers to sign a contract where they will receive the minimum hourly pay. They then promise workers that they will be paid an additional wage difference per hour. On the 7th of every month, workers are paid the minimum hourly rate for the hours worked previous month. Then on the 28th of every month, dispatch companies will make up the wage difference from last month, that is, pay them the owed wages for every hour worked last month. They may even pay workers the owed wages in one lump sum after 55 days instead. When workers ask for their owed wages, the dispatch companies give them a host of excuses. For example, workers didn’t work the full month for the first month, no list was published yet, Foxconn only paid them a certain amount, workers have to work another 7 days at the minimum hourly rate, workers wouldn’t receive the owed wages if they resign, etc.
Forced to work overtime, night shifts and prohibited from taking leave
After a worker was recruited into Foxconn, they found out they’d be working the night shift for a month. He spoke to the team leader and line leader many times, hoping to switch to a day shift to get used to the work, and then start working the night shift the next month. But his request was refused. Afterwards, he asked if he could not work overtime during the night shift and to get off work at 5:00AM, but the team leaders said :” No.”
It is difficult to have leave approved, and workers can only take time in lieu. Some workers who were approved to take time in lieu, were told by the team leader two hours before the shift started that they needed to go back to the workshop to work. This worker refused to, and he was recorded as being absent from work. Workers are fired if they are absent from work three days a month.
Workers’ meagre wages have deductions and there are always delays and unpaid wages. Hence workers have no choice but to work overtime to maintain their livelihoods. Some workers said that since September, Foxconn had new regulations, requesting workers to work from 8:00AM until 8:00PM. Sometimes, workers work 13 days before getting a day of rest. If dispatch workers take leave, this could mean they’d lose their promised rewards and bonuses.
Workers not allowed to resign freely
Whether workers choose to be paid the rewards or the additional hourly rate, if after working for the agreed days, workers want to resign, they are told that they must have worked for three full months and give a 15 day notice before they can resign. If workers resign without going through the resignation process, their wages will not be settled which is an even greater loss. It is currently peak season at the factory, and workers who ask to resign generally won’t be approved. This forces workers to continue working at the factory.
Chengdu Foxconn dispatch workers must be between 18 to 45 years of age, have no scars or tattoos and they cannot have metal braces or metal implanted within the body. When workers are filling in the interview form, they cannot write that their education is anything above a college degree. The intermediary will generally tell those who have higher education that they cannot enter the factory.
Female workers are forced to take off their underwire bras in order to enter the workshop
Chengdu Foxconn mainly manufactures Apple products, for example the Apple Watch. Before workers enter the workshop, they must pass through a metal detector and no metal products are allowed, even female workers’ underwire bras. There was a female worker who wore an underwire bra and was asked by a security guard to take it off before entering the workshop to work. The female worker reluctantly took off her bra, and felt extremely uncomfortable when working at the factory.
Labor protection equipment only protects products but not workers Workers who enter the Chengdu Foxconn workshop must wear anti-static work uniforms from head to toe and need to wear 10 finger cots on both hands. This is to protect the products, so that the static electricity will not damage the components. It also prevents the fingers from dirtying the product components. Yet when workers are working, they are looking at screens the entire time and the workshop lights are harsh on their eyes. Foxconn does not provide goggles to workers. By wearing finger cots, workers also experience swelling of their fingers after work, and some workers even had an allergic reaction.
Additional fees workers must pay for Foxconn’s Interview Center has a large banner which says: “No fees are charged for working at Chengdu Foxconn”. But during the interview, workers have to pay for their own physical examination and only those who pass can work at the factory. It is only in the first month’s wages that they can receive the fees for their physical examination back. Workers who do not pass the physical examination have to pay for this themselves.
Not only this, workers must prepare copies of their ID and also photos. This costs around 20RMB ($3.04USD). After entering the factory, the factory provides cabinets with no locks and workers need to buy their own locks.
No complaints channels for dispatch workers Because Foxconn and dispatch workers have not signed a contract, the factory will not handle any complaints from workers. Workers can only go to the dispatch company and many conflicts have occured because of issues regarding unpaid wages and rewards.
China Labor Watch (CLW) calls on Chinese police and workers to exercise restraint and to refrain from any violent conflicts. Li Qiang, CLW’s Executive Director said: “These workers are working at Foxconn. Foxconn should pay workers their owed wages and promised rewards, and shouldn’t force workers to continue working at the factory by withholding their wages and rewards. Workers protesting shows the failure of Apple’s social responsibility audit”.