Foxconn announced earlier this week that its estimated 1.2 million workers in China would now be able to vote for union representatives. It plans to have 18,000 newly elected union members to serve as a link between workers and Foxconn management. There’s only one catch—independent unions are illegal in China.
Every trade union in China is controlled by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, and it, in turn, is controlled directly by the Communist Party.
How these new union members at Foxconn fit into that is unclear but some analysts feel the union elections are just for show.
[Professor Frank Tian Xie, University of South Carolina]:
"It is asinine that a union is advocated and initiated by a company. In Western society, a truly free country, no union has ever been organized by a company. Workers spontaneously and voluntarily organize a union and their goal is to improve their dealings with management levels of a company."
Foxconn produces 40% of the world’s consumer electronics. Apple is one of their biggest clients and also a source of increasing pressure for reform.
On January 10, over a thousand Foxconn workers from Fengcheng, Jiangxi Province, staged protests against low wages, unfair salary increases, poor living conditions, and harsh management.
A few days later, on January 22, Foxconn employees in Daxing District, Beijing, also went on strike against lack of salary raises and year-end bonuses.
Foxconn says it is introducing the election of union members on the recommendations of the Fair Labor Association, the FLA had previously investigated claims of abuse inside Foxconn’s plants.