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Foxconn soldiers on in Shenzhen

2014-04-23 15:29 chinadaily.com.cn Web Editor: qindexing
People sit and talk inside Foxconn Cafe at Foxconn's Longhua factory in Shenzhenon March 6, 2014.  [Cai Muyuan / chinadaily.com.cn]

People sit and talk inside Foxconn Cafe at Foxconn's Longhua factory in Shenzhenon March 6, 2014. [Cai Muyuan / chinadaily.com.cn]

The windows of a two-storey coffee shop glimmer in the morning sun. Sitting by the end of a tree-lined street alongside a bakery, bank, mobile phone shop and a grocery store, the Foxconn Cafe is a shining attraction for the company's employees in Shenzhen.

On this recent day, however, no one in a Foxconn uniform is enjoying the cafe; the day shift at the nearby factory, which produces iPhones and iPads for US technology giant Apple, has just begun.

With two swimming pools, neatly manicured lawns and nice utilities, Foxconn's Longhua facility in Shenzhen is recognizable as a factory only by the uniformed workers who stream in and out.

There are other tell-tale signs as well. For example, the rooftops of some of the tall buildings are ringed with nets, perhaps inspired by the 18 attempted employee suicides the company suffered in 2010.

While the press made much of the incidents of four years ago, Taiwan-based Foxconn has never admitted the suicides had anything to do with its management.

Liu Kun, the company's spokesman, even had a simple explanation for why the nets were still there even though the highly publicized suicides had stopped.

"You know, it will cost a fortune to take them off," he half-joked.

Liu pointed to the factors that contributed to the suicides, noting that of the factory's 160,000 workers, the average age is 23.

"The problem is that the young workers are not loyal and can't handle any pressure," said Liu. "They are like working holiday tourists, coming here to see Shenzhen and then go to Shanghai to learn about the people there."

Even so, Liu was quick to note the company now relies highly on this generation of laborers.

Post-90s problem?

Lu Erfeng is one of the "tourists" that Liu was referring to. Having worked in Foxconn for four years, this 21-year-old decided he has had enough and handed his resignation by the end of March.

Working eight to ten hours a day, punching out 3,000 to 4,000 motherboards, made Lu "so sick of his life".

"You can't talk to each other or listen to music when you work. Every few hours we are allowed to take a 10-minute break and all my smoker friends would chain-smoke three or four cigarettes and sometimes they get dizzy afterwards," he said.

"I make about 3,000 yuan per month and can usually save half of it," said Lu, adding he is unhappy with his wage and working environment.

"It's so boring and depressing I can understand why they [the workers who committed suicide] did that."

Lu mentioned that the wage rose after the suicide incidents twice, "at first we were happy about it but soon enough people are not satisfied with it," Lu said.

"But people are always unsatisfied," he added.

According to Liu, the company spokesman, the basic wages for workers has been increased over 160 percent in the past four years.

According to the National Bureau of Statistic, the average wage of migrant worker rose 13.9 percent year on year to 2,609 yuan ($417) per month. The base wage of entry-level workers at Foxconn is around 2,500 yuan and with extra working hours they can make around 3,000 yuan ($480).

Foxconn has said it has also made substantial efforts to improve their facilities. According to the company it has increased social activities and adopted professional property management that addresses the needs of employees.

It even set up a care center after the suicides in a bid to polish the company's image and providing professional help for employees' mental issues.

"The facilities are nice, but who has the time to enjoy them?" Lu laughed. "I just want to sleep and stay in after work."

Still, Lu is not unappreciative about the efforts Foxconn has made.

"The executives make some good policies, but when they were implemented, they were distorted after they passed down from boss after bosses."

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