Is there really no option but suicide for so many workers?

Foxconn Workers Protest

This is just a reflection in light of the reports that last week there was a protest by 300 Chinese workers in Wuhan, who were employed by electronics giant Foxconn, that threatened to commit suicide over unpaid compensation.

If you want a good report of the incident then ZDNet have put together a good piece on it, which I won't try to compete with but just put my own views on the incident.

First of all, this news story has broken around the same time of constantly increasing revenues for Foxconn (a company who manufactures electronic products for companies like Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Dell) and one presumes, increasing profits too. Not happy with this they also seem to want to increase the amount of robots in their factories from 10,000 to a million in the next 3 years, putting more Chinese workers out of work and keeping wages down and raising their profits more.

I think the thing that stands out for me most is that this is just one of the incidents that has been reported over workers committing suicide. 14 Foxconn workers committed suicide in 2010 and another 300 were quite close to it last week despite Foxconn making workers sign a 'no-suicide pact'. There is also a good article from last year giving more information on the appalling way that Foxconn workers are treat, not only in the workplace but also the company run canteen and dormitory spaces (most large Chinese workplaces provide food and shelter - at a cost - for it's employees, which gives them even more control over their lives).

This quote from ZDNet puts these incidents into a wider context:

Quote:
An estimated quarter of a million people in China commit suicide every year out of a population of 1.3 billion. When you look at that statistically, the workers at Foxconn would still be seen as a drop in the ocean.

Just quickly browsing on Wikipedia, out of a total of 107 countries, this is the 10th highest suicide rate in the world. However, these figures are disputed and it could in fact be even higher.

In a country where the government have been chasing the dream of becoming a super power and opened itself up the world's capitalist market, it has kept it's authoritarian nature in place and used it to keep workers down. This article shows the amount of workers who have been imprisoned for standing up for the most basic of human rights, many of them workers who have tried to organise independent unions and lead workplace struggles.

When you have the choice of struggling to afford shelter and food, being sent to labour camps and prison for standing up for your rights or taking your own life, sadly many workers are using the latter option as a way out the inhumane system they live in. sad

Some amateur photos from the protest are available here.

Posted By

bulmer
Jan 11 2012 11:40

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working class s...
Jan 11 2012 11:46

I remember reading about the no suicide pact. Truly shocking!

Joseph Kay
Jan 11 2012 12:51
bulmer wrote:
Not happy with this they also seem to want to increase the amount of robots in their factories from 10,000 to a million in the next 3 years, putting more Chinese workers out of work and keeping wages down and raising their profits more.

This is one of those paradoxes of capitalist development. Conditions in Foxconn sweatshops are miserable and drive people to suicide. But the eradication of those conditions by automation is experienced as yet more misery - unemployment, poverty, hunger... Automation should liberate us from toil, but capitalist social relations mean it results in just more misery. That said, if there's plenty of profits in the company, it might be possible to squeeze some out as compensation. Back in the 30s, laid off CNT workers would sit on the factory steps all day and demand a 'sitting wage', and often get it. Under pretty repressive conditions there too. Dunno if that could be repeated in China though.