Apple and Foxconn have come to an agreement that would finally improve worker conditions in Foxconn’s iDevice-producing factories in China. The move will result in fewer overtime hours for Foxconn employees, which will force Foxconn to hire tens of thousands of new employees to fill in the gap. Foxconn has assured Apple that the current employees’ overall compensation will remain the same, even as the number of hours worked drops to an average of 49 per week.
So how are the employees reacting to the news? Not as well as you might expect. Employees are skeptical that Foxconn will make good on its promise to keep pay constant, even though the promise has been backed by Apple, a company swimming in cash. Chen Yamei, who has been with Foxconn for four years is worried her salary will be cut in half, from over 4,000 yuan per month to just over 2,000.
Other employees such as Wu Jun share Yamei’s concerns, and doesn’t see a way that their paychecks will not get reduced if they’re working significantly fewer overtime hours. “We are here to work and not play,” said Jun. “Our income is very important to us.”
Jun’s statement sums up employee sentiment at Foxconn. Many Foxconn employees travel from across China to Foxconn’s plants to earn as much money as they can to better the lives of families back home. Although conditions at the plant may be subpar, many of these workers are voluntary choosing overtime shifts as a way of bolstering their cash flow. Understandably, these individuals are more than a bit frustrated that Foxconn will not allow them to work as much as they have in the past.
Foxconn has set a maximum monthly overtime cap of 36 hours, a far cry from the nearly-unlimited amounts of overtime Foxconn employees are used to. This 36 hour cap is hard for Chen Yamei to wrap her head around, and Yamei stated that “…60 hours of overtime a month would be reasonable and that 36 would be too little.” Yamei’s argument is echoed around the Foxconn plant as workers struggle to see how they can achieve the same levels of income under the new Apple-Foxconn arrangement.
For now, these employees will have to wait and see how the agreement plays out, and trust that Foxconn and Apple will keep true to their word.