The human cost of consumer technologies

Posted by ap507 at Jun 17, 2014 10:13 AM |
Academics turn spotlight on practices of world’s biggest electronic manufacturing company

The world’s biggest electronic manufacturing company comes under the international academic spotlight at an event organised by the Universities of Leicester (UK) and Padua (Italy).

‘Forms of Labour in Europe and China – the Case of Foxconn’ is an international seminar with scholars and practitioners engaging the transnational politics of labour and workers’ struggles.

Taking place at the University of Padua from 26-27 June, it is spearheaded by Devi Sacchetto (University of Padua)  and Rutvica Andrijasevic (Pictured; University of Leicester).

The seminar follows earlier published research - iSlaves - Exploitation and Resistance in China’s Foxconn Factories – by the researchers that drew attention to the tough working conditions on production sites in the heart of Europe.

Dr Andrijasevic, a lecturer in employment studies at the University's School of Management and Dr Devi Sacchetto of the University of Padua conducted original research in the Czech Republic. Their conclusions were based on in-depth interviews with 60 workers and discussions with trade unionists, non-governmental organisations and government officials. Dr Andrijasevic said: “We had a clear research agenda from the outset – to gain information about the composition of Foxconn’s workforce, its management practices, the organisation of production and reproduction, the role of the state and the reach and impact of trade unions.”

They found that temporary workers employed at Czech factories owned by Foxconn work in stretches of up to twelve hours under a tightly controlled and physically draining regime.

They describe their work in Open Democracy here.

The researchers have since followed up on their study and conducted a further 30 interviews in Turkey. They found that by locating the factory in a European Free Zone, Foxconn is able to significantly drive down the labour costs, benefit from tax breaks on profit and wages and limit access to the trade unions.

They identified four operational strands in relation to Foxconn’s operations in Europe:

  • Production pivots on a flexible and available workforce
  • Strategies are in place to drive down labour costs
  • There is state support for operations
  • Influence and reach of the trade unions is extremely limited

The issues are highlighted here.

Dr Andrijasevic said: “What our research is already showing is the need to move away from examining Foxconn within a single national framework as a means of investigating the global organisation of its production. We have therefore organised a major workshop on the Forms of Labour in Europe and China: The Case of Foxconn which takes place on the 26-27 June 2014, at the University of Padua.”

Speakers at the seminar include academics from University of London, Royal Holloway College;  Chinese University of Hong Kong; The Hong Kong Polytechnic University as well as trade representatives.