The Nanfang / Blog

Foxconn Boss: Worker Suicides Are Not Our Fault

Posted: 07/2/2014 5:12 pm

terry gou guo taiming foxconn ceoThe head of Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn has come out to say a spate of suicides over the years at the factories in China are not related to poor labor conditions.

Terry Gou (Guo Taiming), the founder and chief executive of Foxconn, told a shareholder meeting that 90% of the suicides that have happened at Foxconn are “due to personal problems and family disputes”. Gou also told investors that with 470,000 employees, odds are some will commit suicide.

Guo did show some compassion, though, saying suicide does not solve any problems, and that anyone with suicidal thoughts should call the suicide prevention hotline.

Foxconn came to media prominence when a rash of suicides took place at the mega-factory complex between 2010 and 2012. As a result, staff made changes to the work environment that include reduced work hours, increased pay, the installment of safety nets to catch jumpers, psychological staff to help workers.


Photo: China Daily


Dongguan to Accelerate Replacement of Factory Workers with Robots

Posted: 06/27/2014 8:00 am

robot manufacturing The City of Dongguan has passed a resolution that will accelerate the replacement of human labor with robots throughout the city, reports the Dongguan Times.

Called the “Promotion of Dongguan Enterprises to ‘Switch from Human to Machine Labor’ Plan (2014-2016)”, the resolution looks to replace human workers with robots through the implementation of 1,000-1,500 projects in factories throughout the city by 2016.

The resolution targets companies with concentrated labor requirements, or companies that are tech-oriented.

READ: Shenzhen Firm Continues Trend of Replacing Human Labor with Robots

The resolution seeks to open two to three dedicated robot industry parks by 2020, and anywhere from six to eight robot facilities in concentrated neighborhoods. The plan is said to be valued at over RMB 700 million.

While not a law, the resolution strongly urges Dongguan companies to begin adopting technological advancements as part of their production. Companies seem to be responding favorably to the plan. Ninety-two percent of Dongguan factories are in favor of replacing human labor with robots, the report says. Forty-nine percent of Dongguan factories have already cut 10% of their labor, while 20% have cut over 30% of their labor.

READ: Strikes on the Rise as Workers Set to Be Replaced by Robots

The idea of robots replacing human workers is hardly a new phenomenon in the Pearl River Delta. Guangzhou passed a similar resolution which aims to have 80% of all manufacturing production performed by robots by 2020.

A recent rumor that Foxconn plans to hire 100,000 extra workers to accommodate production of the next iPhone has fueled speculation its Shenzhen location will be the site of the record-setting hiring boom. Whether the rumor is true or not, any new recruits at Foxconn will have to contend with the million robots that are set to join the assembly line by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, as Dongguan and other PRD cities look to decrease their labor force, 17 million new residents are expected to settle in rural cities around Guangdong as hukou resident restrictions are relaxed.


Photo: Dongguan Times


Nanfang Week in Review: June 15-June 21

Posted: 06/22/2014 5:00 pm

yulin dog eating festival controversy animal activistsLast week looked just like this here at the Nanfang:


Monday:g-string condom

Tuesday:massage unconscious paralysis shenzhen


Thursday:jiangmen student stabbing teacher

Friday:yulin dog eating festival controversy animal activists

Saturday:marilyn monroe statue giant guigang guangxi

Be sure to check out our Twitter feed @thenanfang as well as our Facebook page!

Photos: the Nanfang


Strikes On The Rise as Workers Set To Be Replaced By Robots

Posted: 06/16/2014 6:32 pm

labor unrestGuangdong labor conditions look to become more complicated and unpredictable just as the province looks to welcome some 13 million migrant workers as new residents within six to seven years.

Labor unrest in Guangdong has been growing this year due to a slowing economy and rising costs, reports Reuters. According to China Labor Bulletin, there have been 319 strikes throughout China this year, with approximately 100 occurring in Guangdong alone.

Wages and Benefits Key Sticking Points

Apparently the Yue Yuan strike, which saw 30,000 workers walk off the job earlier this year, was actually started inadvertently by a manager at the company.

READ: 30,000 Workers Strike in Dongguan, Robots Planned As Replacements

According to the account compiled by a labor group, a manager first notified employees about the paltry amount the company was making to staff social welfare.

Even though some companies like Timberland and Nike tried to distance themselves from the strike, Adidas was proactive in campaigning for the release of two workers that had been detained for protesting at the factory.

READ: Shenzhen Firm Continues Trend of Replacing Human Labor with Robots

In a statement to the Guardian, Adidas said, ”With respect to the arrest of two workers’ representatives, Mr Zhang and Mr Lin, we were engaged with several labor rights groups in Southern China, to try to determine where they were being detained and offered our support to secure their release. We also wrote to the Dongguan mayoral office, calling for his immediate release.”

Things are getting better on the salary front, however. The manufacturing sector saw wages rise by more than 16% in the first nine months of 2013, according to Datastream.

RELATED: Labor Unrest Grows in Guangdong with
Two More High-Profile Protests

Labor Activists Released

Furthermore, the province has recently seen the release of two high-profile labor activists. Meng Han was recently released after serving nine months in jail. Meng had been accused of “assembling a crowd to disrupt public order” during a rooftop protest in August 2013 at the Guangzhou Chinese Medicine University Auxiliary Hospital. Meng and 11 other security guards had been protesting their employment contracts and and their social insurance benefits.

Meanwhile in Shenzhen, charges of “gathering a crowd and disturbing the order of public transportation” have been dropped against Wu Guijun for his part in a protest at Diweixin.

Taxi Drivers Barred From Forming Unions

However, any labor reform in Guangdong probably won’t mean taxi drivers can form their own unions. Drivers in Dongguan, in particular, lament the state of their industry but aren’t in any position to make changes through group organization.

Dongguan taxi drivers have been hit hard by the prostitution crackdown, and have long been suffering from an industry where they are forced to pay kickbacks called “tea money“. The plight of the Dongguan taxi drivers gained prominence when a driver died after working a 24-hour shift. And yet, these labor conditions are accepted as something that can not be changed.

Taxi driver Mr Li, 41, confirms the bad working conditions. He said, “During a bad day, you have no choice but to just sit in the cab the whole 12 hours. If you don’t work, you still have to pay the company. And the tea money is always like a monkey on your back. Everyone wants to earn it back as soon as possible.”

But Li admits the working conditions aren’t liable to change soon. “There is something fundamentally wrong with this job but we are not organised and don’t know how to join forces,” Li said. “That is why we don’t have a say in our pay and working conditions.”

“We are like a heap of loose sand here, there is little solidarity,” he added.

READ: Guangdong Hukou Reform to Populate Rural Cities With Migrants

The Days of Manual Labor Are Numbered

It may get worse for some factory workers in Guangdong. The high cost of manufacturing has led some companies to start using robots as an alternative to using human labor.

Perhaps signifying a growing trend, the Shenzhen Robotics Association said the annual output of the robotics industry in Shenzhen had exceeded its initial goal of RMB 20 billion last year. Foxconn is currently using approximately 10,000 robots in its Shenzhen factories, and it plans to expand to a million robots within three years. Another Shenzhen company, Rapoo Technology, incorporated 75 robots into its production line in 2011, and has been able to cut 2,200 staff.

Guangzhou plans to have 80% of all of its manufacturing production performed by robots by 2020.

In light of these many developments, we would guess that the only safe job these days is building robots. Guangzhou is leading the way, proposing to construct two or three robot industrial development zones that will produce 100,000 robots a year by 2020.


Photo: sfgate


PRD’s Contribution to the World Cup: Footballs and Condoms

Posted: 06/13/2014 7:14 pm

brazica ball football world cupTheChinese National Football Team can stop moping over its exclusion from the World Cup as the Pearl River Delta has found a way to represent China at the world’s biggest sporting event: by supplying the tournament’s official footballs and condoms.

While these two products have nothing in common, their production exhibits the Chinese pride that won’t be excluded, qualifying rounds be damned.

The “Samba Glory” from Shenzhen

The footballs used in the previous World Cup came under tremendous scrutiny for providing substandard performance. Called the Jabulani, the ball was criticized by Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano as being “supernatural” and for having unpredictable trajectories. This has led to a high-tech redesign of the official World Cup football—called the Brazucathat has involved NASA wind tunnels and aerodynamic experts.

However, this official football designed and licensed by Adidas has humble roots, hailing from an undisclosed plastics factory in the Gongming Tianliao Industrial Area on Shenzhen’s west side. In fact, there is so much secrecy at this factory that many of its own workers don’t even know that the official World Cup ball is produced here.

A worker named Ah Ju confirmed to a reporter with the Yangcheng Evening Report that the official World Cup ball is made in a second floor workshop near the main entrance by a small group of ten workers, mostly women. The workers are sworn to secrecy, and the workroom is a restricted area that is sometimes guarded by security.

world cup football factory

Even though the high-tech research and development that went into this football was very expensive, the production and labor costs at the “Asian X Plastic Company of Shenzhen” remain low. Workers that make the official World Cup football only earn a monthly wage of RMB 3,000 (US$483), and are expected to work regular overtime and half-days on Saturdays.

Called “Samba Glory” in Chinese, the ball retails for RMB 1,299 (US$209) in China, meaning that workers would only be able to afford to purchase two of the footballs they make every month. However, as Ah Ju points out, progress has been made.

As confirmed by a company representative, the same factory had the honor of making the official football for the last World Cup, which cost RMB 1,080 (US$174). As Ah Ju points out, however, the workers were only earning a monthly wage of RMB 2,000 (US$322) back then, meaning things have improved.

World Cup Condom Kings

world cup condomsMoving on from balls and getting to the meat of the matter, the Pearl River Delta’s other connection to the World Cup is a factory in Guangzhou that supplies another vital product, although one used when games aren’t underway: the condom.

A Guangzhou company named Double One (Shuangyi) has been approved by the Brazilian government to be its sole supplier of condoms, reports Southern Metropolis Daily.

Located in Shuangyi, Huadu District, Double One takes up a total space of 130,000 square meters.  The latex factory has eight production lines to meet demand and soon hopes to expand to ten. In fact, Double One has deep roots with the World Cup. Back when South Africa hosted the games in 2010, this same company supplied 35 million condoms.

China is one of the top condom producers in the world. China sold 10 billion condoms in 2012, 25% of all sales in the world at that time.

Brazilians apparently demand high quality condoms, as they were described by the Southern Metropolis Daily as being from an ”extremely sexually-open country”.

Rules for the world’s most popular pastime remain the same: one in the net will end the game.

Photos: Yangcheng Evening ReportSouthern Daily, Myactivesg


Bare Footed Workers Caught Stomping On Noodles Destined For The Dinner Table

Posted: 06/10/2014 6:16 pm

feet vermicelli dongguan factoryI’m no foodie, but I’m told texture is an important part to the experience of enjoying food. The way food feels in your mouth as you whimsically savor each bite that yields a tantalizing morsel.

But how food gets that certain je ne sais quoi might not be as tantalizing as the taste.

READ: 1/3 of Shenzhen Markets Selling Contaminated Noodles

A netizen called “Incapable of Seeing Straight” has posted pictures online of a Dongguan workshop during the process of making rice vermicelli noodles. The pictures depict many workers surrounded by a lot of vermicelli—so much vermicelli, in fact, that there is no room to put it. Except on the floor. Where the workers are standing. With their bare feet.

And we know that these workers are working hard because we see one of them. Sleeping. On the raw rice noodles/bed of springy noodles.dongguan feet vermicelli

On the afternoon of June 9, the Dongguan Office of Food Inspection investigated the case and identified the Daojiao Tongcheng Rice Product Factory of Daojiao County as being the place where the photos were taken. The pictures were determined to have been taken before Spring Festival 2014. The factory says all the workers in the photos are now gone.

RELATED: 40 Jailed in 3 Years For Food Safety Violations in Dongguan

As a result of the investigation, the Daojiao Tongcheng Rice Product Factory has been ordered to close down and to reassess its food production procedures, reports Yangcheng Evening Report.

And if you’re wondering if you may have eaten some of these so-called “stinky feet vermicelli noodles”, well, you may have. There are 15 Daojiao vermicelli factories in Guangdong Province that have a total daily production of 800-1,200 tons of vermicelli noodles.

Daojiao rice noodles make up 80% of all vermicelli sales in the Pearl River Delta.

We should add that barefoot workers are probably a step up from workers wearing shoes into the workroom, but just barely.

feet vermicelli dongguan factoryfeet vermicelli dongguan factorydongguan feet vermicellifeet vermicelli dongguan factoryRelated:

Photos: cfqn, Caixin via Weibo


Random Knife Attack in Dongguan Leaves One Girl Dead, Another Injured

Posted: 06/5/2014 11:12 am

dongguan street crossing stabbing[This story contains violent content that may offend some readers]

One person is dead and another is injured after two teenaged girls were stabbed when crossing the road to return to their shift at a Dongguan shoe factory, reported Southern Metropolis Daily.

On the evening of June 3 at around 6:50pm, two female workers were returning to work after shopping at a mall. They were crossing Dongmen Middle Road at the intersection of Shuanglong Road, in Xiaobian Neighborhood, Chang’an County when they were attacked at the median.

One victim died at the scene, while the other was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Nearby witnesses say someone shouted, “There’s a stabbing”, at which time many workers that were also crossing the street dispersed.

An eyewitness said victims were stabbed by a man wearing black clothes using a knife with a blade 40cm long.

The injured victim says she does not recognize the suspect, and Chang’an police have described the case as a “random stabbing”.

The suspect is still currently at large.

dongguan street crossing stabbingdongguan street crossing stabbing

In other knife attacks around Guangdong province, two people are dead and one is injured following a dispute over the ordering of food at a small eatery in Shaoguan. The incident occurred on May 4 at 3pm at a restaurant on Daxue Road, Zhenjiang District.

Dead are the female proprietor and a peddler from a nearby store. A suspect named Zhong, 26 years-old, is in police custody.shaoguan stabbing zhenjiangshaoguan stabbing zhenjiangshaoguan stabbing zhenjiang

Photos: Sohu via Weibo, 21cn, Southern Metropolis Report via Weibo


30,000 Workers Strike in Dongguan, Robots Planned As Replacements

Posted: 04/18/2014 2:58 pm

robot worker labor factory

Labor strife in Guangdong can be had to generalize: as some labor disputes flare up and workers are granted concessions, other labor protesters are convicted for “disturbing social order”. And so, we have the following pieces of news, both announced recently.

There are currently 30,000 workers are on strike at the Yu Yuan Industrial shoe making factory complex in Dongguan, the Associated Press reports. Workers have been protesting the company’s lack of social security and welfare benefits, and have been staging periodic work stoppages at the factory since April 5.

Yu Yuan makes components used in shoes by Nike, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance in a gigantic complex made up of ten separate factories. The Nanfang had first told you about this labor dispute back on April 7.

SEE: Foxconn to Replace Shenzhen Workers with Robots

Striker Cui Tiangang, 31, was adamant on the demands made by the workers. Cui said, “We expect at least an explanation, to give us an answer… We will keep on striking if there is no offer.”

If true to claims made by the organizers, this protest is the largest strike of its kind to ever take place in China. As historic an occasion that may be, Cui’s solidarity for his fellow worker may just be a quaint notion in the not-too distant future.

An industrial development guideline issued by the Guangzhou municipal government is encouraging the use of robots instead of human labor by providing companies with cash rebates. In fact, Guangzhou plans to have 80 percent of all its manufacturing production to be performed by robots instead of humans by 2020.

READ: Strike by Sanitation Workers in Guangzhou
Leaves the City Messy, But Wins a Pay Raise

That’s not all: the Guangzhou government is proposing to construct two or three robot industrial development zones. Each of these in turn will make 100,000 robot units a year by 2020.

It’s simply great that waves upon waves of robots will be given the jobs necessary to provide for their robot families, but a reliance upon technology does not always solve the problem at hand as seen in the documentary about the decline of American prosperity, Robocop (1987).

Sure, it will be great to reap the rewards of a worker that won’t go on strike, and will neither arrest nor harm any senior executives of OCP. Luo Jun, executive chairman of the International Robotics and Intelligent Equipment Industry Alliance, predicts the annual output value gained from the robotics industry in China will equal 300 billion yuan (US$48 billion) in 10 years.

READ: Dongguan Workers on Strike at Samsung Supply Factory

However, industry experts are warning against an over-reliance upon the Western market and its technology as well as the danger of overcapacity. At that point, both robots and workers will be out of a job.

Manufacturing production is a huge industry for China and if this sector should ever suffer a economic breakdown with catastropic consequences, we may be referring to Robocop more often. If it isn’t “I’ll buy that for a dollar!” then it will be this:

“Riches, leave.”

Photo: Robotics Business Review

More stories:
Bra Workers Strike After Being Told to “Jump Off a Roof”
Another Suicide at Foxconn? Employee Jumps Off 9th Floor After Slitting Wrists
Another Worker Plummets to His Death At Foxconn
Guangdong Factory Workers Strike After Being Insulted By Boss


Labour Unrest Grows in Guangdong With Two More High-Profile Protests

Posted: 04/15/2014 7:07 pm

galanz factory riot demonstration wages rampage labor

A day before Guangzhou hospital security guards were convicted for disturbing social order by protesting low wages, workers at a Galanz factory in Zhongshan rioted due to unfair wages.

Yesterday, a Weibo post (now deleted) reported a riot had broken out in the dormitories at the Galanz factory during the early morning of April 14. 2,000 workers were said to be protesting against a low wage standard that was below than that promised during recruitment, 21st Century Business Herald reported.

However, the management at Galanz gave a different version of the incident. They confirmed that a protest had indeed occurred at the factory by the workers. However, instigated by workers who had been drinking, only approximately 200 workers got involved in the unrest while those not involved presumably had a difficult time trying to fall asleep.

At present, the unrest is over and an investigation is pending after police were called in.

As for what could happen if protests are taken too far: Several hospital security guards involved in a high-profile labor protest in Guangzhou last year were convicted today, Reuters reports.

After negotiations between the Guangzhou Chinese Medicine University Hospital and other workers would leave them with nothing, the convicted security guards climbed to the roof and threatened to jump before detained by police on August 19 of last year.

All 12 accused were found guilty of “disturbing social order”, but received comparably light punishments with the longest sentence being nine months. A lawyer for one of the convicted guards, Duan Yi, explained that China’s leaders are still liable to crack down on labor activists:

“They are sending a signal to society at large which is that as workers protect their rights, if they are even slightly extreme they could receive criminal punishment.”

As a family member pointed out, none of the convicted had put any other people in danger, and yet they have been incarcerated up until the trial today.

It would seem that a dialog between both labor and management is the way by which a compromise can be achieved, and yet such an outcome is not assured when management like Galanz occupies an infallible position. They had explained their stance on the rioting workers’ demands by saying:

The company will do its best to fulfill all the rational requests of its employees.

If it ain’t rational, it ain’t being fulfilled.

Photos: Weibo


Dongguan workers on strike at Samsung supply factory

Posted: 03/31/2014 7:00 am

Two years ago, South Korean electronics giant, Samsung Electronics Co. was accused of exploiting child labour in several of its Chinese supply factories. Samsung is once again embroiled in labour scandal and unrest as workers from one of its Dongguan supply factories has gone on strike, demanding higher salaries and better social insurance.

Net Ease Finance reported on March 30 that a large-scale worker strike took place on March 29 in Samkwang Science & Technology Co. The company has more than 1,000 employees and manufactures mobile phones and DVD players for Samsung.

One of the workers on strike told the news portal that the Dongguan company deducts RMB 80 (or 8%) from a seasoned worker’s monthly RMB 1,000 salary for social insurance, which the worker claimed to be a large share, the report said.

The report did not specify how many workers participated in the strike and there was no comment from the Dongguan company or Samsung.

In 2013, Samkwang was accused by US-based China Labor Watch of owing payments to workers, discrimination against men, pregnant women, ethnic minorities and applicants over 39 years old, Business Week reported.

Samsung has more than 200 manufacturing suppliers in China. Back in 2012, China Labor Watch accused the Korean company of hiring child labor at six of its plants and two of its suppliers in China.

Here is a photo of the strike scene from Net Ease:

Home page and content page images from Net Ease 

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