After being dismissed for demanding that Foxconn pay its share of social insurance and contribute to the housing fund of its employees, a group of 16 workers said that at least 100,000 people employed by the Taiwanese technology company in the South China city of Shenzhen are still unaware of their lawful rights.
According to Huang -- a nine-year veteran at the manufacturing complex in Longhua, north-east of Shenzhen -- Foxconn has only been contributing to his insurance and housing account in accordance with the basic salary instead of total income. Huang argued that Foxconn is violating Chinese laws, and that the problem is prevalent across the plant, but Foxconn refused to face it and sacked those who dared object.
Huang's claim was echoed by dozens of his colleagues at the CESBG working group, which produces servers for IBM and Dell. Li, a 27-year-old from Chongqing, went to Foxconn straight out of vocational school, and now works as a test engineer.
"For all I know, we have been kept in the dark for so many years, only to find out that Foxconn failed to pay the lawful amount when we went to the local social security authority and started to ask questions," Li said. "However, there is nothing they could do about the company's misbehaving other than telling us to file a lawsuit."
After many failed attempts to communicate with the management about the issue, around 50 workers began protesting with banners at a pedestrian bridge near the factory on September 8, while some picketed the front of the executive office, where they suspect Terry Guo, Foxconn's founder and president, could be working.
"The management called for a meeting right after we put the banner out on the 8th, but the talk turned out fruitless. The company denied any wrongdoing. And both the labour authority and the factory union said their hands are tied, and asked us to go to a labour arbitration court," Huang noted.
"We all know the legal system is more of a trap for the workers, and we wish to settle the dispute through negotiation. But the company decided to sack the troublemakers before we could organise more workers to join the effort."
By September 11, 16 workers, including Huang and Li, had been dismissed for "sabotaging the company's image and protesting at an executive office". The others were quickly silenced.
According to Huang, the human resources manager levelled scorn at the workers, saying, "we easily dealt with more than 300 workers who tried to cause the same trouble last year; you guys will be a walk in the park for us".
"We are thinking about petitioning a higher-level labour authority and the municipal trade union federation, as well as hiring a lawyer. But by the end of day, the power has to come from the workers themselves," Huang said.
"Foxconn's Longhua complex employs more than 100,000 workers, and the Guanlan complex has even more. The vast majority are still unaware of their rights and not at all mobilised."