The Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology is planning to hold labour union elections in its factories for the first time in response to frequent worker protests, riots, strikes and rising labour costs.
“The position of chairman and 20 committee members of the Foxconn Federation of Labour Unions Committee will be determined through elections once every five years through an anonymous ballot voting process,” Foxconn told to the Financial Times.
The company, which has 1.2m mainland workers, has allegations of illegal overtime, low pay and the use of underage workers, apart from worker suicides at plants in 2009 and 2010.
In its audit, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) pinpointed that the company's labour union failed to represent workers. Foxconn, in association with the FLA, will begin training its Chinese workers in election process after the completion of Lunar new year holiday.
Since the unions have so far had no real role in addressing worker grievances and have been dominated by management, most young workers know nothing about what a real labour union is supposed to do.
Foxconn said more than 70 per cent of the 188 employee-elected representatives at its Shenzhen campus were frontline workers.
“The process through which Foxconn’s current labour union representatives were chosen was not democratic because there was no open and transparent nomination of candidates, and it is not representative because more than half of the committee members are from management,” said one person working on the election plans to the Financial Times.
Labour unions in China are have been controlled by management and local government. As such, the Chinese government is also encouraging collective bargaining as a way to address the growing unrest.
Foxconn produces a large proportion of gadgets such as iPhones, tablets and computers.