Now that Foxconn has fixed one pay dispute, we can't quite stop feeling guilty that the workers making our iPhones and Xboxes hate their lives so much they threaten suicide. The electronics manufacturer released the following statement, via The New York Times's David Barboza, after getting American media attention for a mass suicide threat by 300 employees: "The welfare of our employees is our top priority, and we are committed to ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and that their rights are fully protected," said the company. It claims it has worked things out with workers, but fixing one high profile issue and releasing a sympathetic corporate statement doesn't lead us to believe the working conditions at the electronics manufacturer magically meet our 21st century ideals.
Without revealing the terms of the agreement, Foxconn claims it worked things out with all but 45 employees, who have chosen to quit. The dispute arose after Foxconn had failed to deliver compensation promised to workers who relocated to the Wuhan campus, which has harsher working conditions, one indignant worker told Barboza. This incited a protest of 150 and a suicide attempt of 100, claims Foxconn -- a number about half of what Want China Times reported earlier this week.
Foxconn claims the pay dispute is over, reminding us of its commitment to fair treatment and worker's rights. Yet, that worker who talked to Barboza asked not to be identified for fear of punishment by Foxconn, leading us to believe the worker-boss relations at Foxconn still don't meet American standards.
The infamous manufacturer has taken actions to make things better, now employing psychiatrists and counsel workers, as a part of its effort to improve working conditions at the plant that makes a lot of our must-have electronics from Apple, Microsoft and Amazon -- just to name a few. But these improvements apparently haven't done enough to meet worker's needs, as suicides and protests continue.
Foxconn isn't the only one trying to save face, since the media coverage of the event, which involved makers of the Xbox, Microsoft has released its own corporate statement.
Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue. We have a stringent Vendor Code of Conduct that spells out our expectations, and we monitor working conditions closely on an ongoing basis and address issues as they emerge. Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy.
We don't think this one resolution will change the long hours, fatigue, and physical disabilities it takes to make iPhones and Xboxes, as Mike Daisey detailed on This American Life. But we suppose it's a step. And, to handle that guilt as we wait for marked improvements, take The New York Times's Paul Krugman's attitude, who points out things could be worse. A step up from laboring in the fields, these factories have led to an improved quality of life for most of the workers. Industrialization is a step toward modernity, he argues.