Tim Worstall, Contributor
Another group of workers at Foxconn have taken to the roof and threatened to kill themselves in protest at working conditions and pay. This is of course immediately reported as being about Apple who are indeed one of Foxconn’s major customers.
All of which is rather odd because the dispute doesn’t seem to be about manufacturing Apple equipment at all, but about Microsoft. Here’s how Reuters reported the story:
Workers at a Chinese factory owned by Foxconn, Apple Inc’s main manufacturer, threatened to jump off the roof of a building in a protest over wages just a month after the two firms announced a landmark agreement on improving working conditions.
They then go on to point out that Apple’s profits and sales are soaring.
Now they don’t actually say that this protest is about Apple, that’s true. But it’s also the impression you get from reading the piece, that it is indeed about Apple. What with all the talk about the 2010 suicides, the FLA investigation into Foxconn at Apple’s invitation and so on.
However, there’s a rather important detail left out of that report:
Workers at the Chinese factory Foxconn, where companies like Apple and Microsoft manufacture hardware, have threatened to commit suicide amid protests over wages.
Approximately 200 protesters in the Wuhan plant voiced concerns “workplace adjustments,” however protests mostly involves new workers of the plant,” Reuters reports.
Foxconn’s Wuhan plant is where Microsoft manufactures parts of the Xbox 360.
Oh: that’s interesting isn’t it? The plant doesn’t have anything to do with Apple. It produces for Microsoft. And yet most of the news stories are leading with headlines about Apple.
As to what is really going on in the factory I have my suspicions.
The Information Centre for Human Rights said one of the complaints of the workers was that they earned less in Wuhan than they had in their previous jobs.
Wuhan is in central China where wages are indeed lower than in the coastal areas. That’s why the plants are gradually migrating inland, in pursuit of those lower labour costs. But if you’re a migrant worker from the boonies who once worked on the coast and is now, some years later, working in the centre, it might well be something of a nasty shock to find out that those wages are lower.
As to climbing onto the roof, well, we know that it’s a pretty effective tactic. Precisely because of the attention that is paid to Foxconn, Apple and the like by various monitoring organisations. Whether you really mean to throw yourself off or whether you just want a bit of publicity that roof tactic does garner attention.
Think of it this way: among the billions at work this past week around the world I’m sure there were a number of 200 strong groups having angry words with management over wages and conditions. In fact, I’d assume that there were thousands of such groups. Hundreds in the US alone. So which one, and it is only one, of such angry groups get written up by Reuters, CBS and now Forbes? Yes, quite, the ones at the Foxconn plant that may or may not have anything to do with Apple.
So why do Foxconn workers climb on the roof? Because people report it when Foxconn workers climb on the roof and thus climbing on the roof works for Foxconn workers. If not for anyone else.