- Title: CHINA: Foxconn workers rally after spate of suicides
- Date: 19th August 2010
- Summary: SHENZHEN, GUANGDONG PROVINCE, CHINA (AUGUST 18, 2010) (REUTERS) STREET DECORATED WITH COLOURFUL FLAGS INSIDE FOXCONN COMPOUND WORKERS WALKING TOWARDS STADIUM
- Embargoed: 3rd September 2010 13:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Employment
- Reuters ID: LVA28DB6GG0LZ4X93C15PRNE4DB2
- Story Text: Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, which also uses the trade name Foxconn, and its main workers' union held a large "treasure your life" rally it said was to help employees have a positive outlook towards life.
Tens of thousands of workers dressed in colourful wigs and costumes, while glitzy floats carried red banners that read "cherish life" and "mutual love" in a major morale-boosting exercise following a series of 12 suicides at the company this year, including a twelfth case in August.
Hon Hai pledged to soften its management practices, improve wages, impose caps on overtime work and offer counselling services to its young labour force.
The president of the union read a declaration it said was signed by 100,000 employees, promising to abide by government laws and the company's regulations.
This is the second time the usually secretive company has opened up its doors to media as it embarks on an unprecedented publicity blitz to counter negative press about its labour practices which some groups have likened to a sweatshop.
It last opened its facility up to the media in May, when Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou showed worker amenities that included a swimming pool, bookshops, a counselling centre and new dormitories.
Hon Hai also said it will begin moving more employees away from its increasingly expensive Shenzhen plant, even as it looks to raise its total China workforce by over 40 percent by next year.
Hon Hai will have as many as 1.3 million workers in China by the end of 2011, up from the current 920,000, said Louis Woo, special assistant to the chief executive.
He added Woo the expansion marked a major "underlying transformation" for the global manufacturing goliath inland to tap more abundant and stable labour supplies and help draw more factories away from the coast despite disadvantages like higher transport costs and patchy infrastructure.
At the same time, its two Shenzhen plants that have long served as its major manufacturing hub, will be downsized to as few as 300,000 within five years from 470,000 now, but will instead focus on higher-end work such as research and design.
"So we are expanding away from Shenzhen. At the same time we also understand that the Shenzhen government wants to transform Shenzhen from a purely manufacture-oriented city to a more R&D or new material, new energy research, or more high value-added centres for Shenzhen. So, we will be doing this together with the Shenzhen Government," said Woo.
The company is building large new plants in the inland provinces of Henan and Sichuan which are among China's most populous provinces.
Salaries in the new plants inland will be higher than the average in those regions, but Woo claimed they would not have an impact on profitability in the longer term.
Foxconn employee Wan-wan Ma said she was happy with the career opportunities available to her at the company.
"I feel that Foxconn is a company with rich corporate culture and my education standard is rather low. I want to learn more in this company which I think no other company can provide me with the same opportunity I have. I have worked in other companies before I decided to join Foxconn because they couldn't provide me the opportunities I needed."
Hon Hai has said it wants to diversify its manufacturing base away from its main Shenzhen facility, but these efforts have begun picking up speed amid large pay hikes in the more prosperous southern coastal regions.
The new plants further inland will include plants in the Chinese cities of Chengdu and Chongqing, helping the company mitigate rising labour costs in the Pearl River Delta.
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