In the wake of the tragic suicides at Foxconn in Shenzhen, Hong Kong-based activists, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) have issued an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs demanding that Apple actively engage with Foxconn to reform its management system based on greater worker participation. The letter states:
Workers’ participation will build the community resources to reduce suicides. And strengthening the participation of workers in enterprise management will help monitor and improve working conditions more widely.
Key to improving worker participation, the letter argues, is the formation of genuinely representative trade unions at Foxconn in place of the currently management-controlled and wholly ineffectual union:
We call on Apple and other brands to support genuine reform of Foxconn’s unions. Brands and suppliers should commit resources to facilitate union campaigns and elections at the shopfloor level. Independent non-governmental organizations and reputable labor scholars are ready to assist Chinese unions and management to provide participatory training to all workers at Foxconn.
Through elections and genuine participation, workers will find their voice, ensure respect for their rights and dignity and stop this trend of Foxconn employee’s choosing to end their lives in the prime of their youth.
At the same time, a group of 44 Chinese and international scholars also issued a call for Foxconn to institute a more humane management style and give workers the rights to a representative union that could engage in collective bargaining with management.
Both letters were issued to coincide with Foxconn’s Annual General Meetings in Taipei and Hongkong.