Edited by Sarah Mejia
Look around. The ubiquity of iPods, iPads and the like becomes more than obvious. Apple produces one-of-a-kind products. As consumers, we love the convenience of relying on Siri to tell us the location of the closest gas station when the gaslight starts blinking while driving. These tools help people to manage their busy lives. Now, go across the globe to Yantai, a city located in Eastern China. A large electronics manufacturer based in Beijing, China, Foxconn Technology Co., has had a newsworthy occurrence in Yantai, China, a satellite campus. Here, a substantial fight occurred, inflicting injury on eleven individuals. However, a fight is not anything new for Foxconn; actually, violence is quite common in this manufacturing plant. In fact, in 2009, Foxconn faced several suicides, with ongoing violence in its factories ever since. “Workers are unhappy; Geoff Crothall, spokesperson for China Labour Bulletin, said “[l]arge-scale fights simply do not break out at well-run factories with a contented and well-paid workforce” (Mozur). Surprisingly, an article recently published in the Wall Street Journal revealed that Foxconn does electronic manufacturing for well-known companies including Apple Inc., Nintendo Co., Sony Corp., and Hewlett Packard Co. Stakeholders of these reputable companies must be concerned about these awful working conditions. After a long 60-hour week, employees are surely burnt out; some workers are even as young as fourteen years old at Foxconn, a sign that something definitely is not working effectively at this plant.
Management needs a serious intervention. Violating health and safety codes is not a viable way to cut costs; it only invites negative public attention. Issues at Foxconn can be traced to the top with management. Obviously, its current method of managing employees is not working. Some say the problems at the factory are a “result of the strict, military-style management of Foxconn’s facilities” (Mozur).
Because Foxconn is managing such large number of people, a serious, effective plan needs to be implemented immediately. “The rapid escalation from a single dispute to a larger-scale confrontation shows the challenges faced by Foxconn as it seeks to manage hundreds of thousands of young workers” (Mozur). Management needs to implement a solid plan of policies and procedures, including a code of ethics. Following through with the plan, management needs to provide oversight and make it visibly clear that they are whole-heartedly committed to the code of ethics. Establishing an ethics committee would be a good way to further enforce the ethics code. When management and an ethics committee are enforcing this type of plan, employees have no choice but to comply. Foxconn should eliminate their “military-style” management; employees need to know exactly what is expected of them. Employees should be required to take ethics training to help them in understanding exactly the kind of behavior management encourages. At Foxconn, it is rather apparent that management is not providing proper oversight, adding to the chaos. Like children, employees need direction and guidance. The new ethics code needs to be policed and monitored closely and employees need to be given much guidance to help them in acting in an ethical manner. Hence, individual evaluations should be performed yearly, yielding appropriate incentives for complying with the ethics code and increasing employee morale. When implemented well by top management, a viable ethics code builds trust in organization, which is certainly not present at Foxconn Technology Co currently.
So, what does this sort of violence say about prestigious companies such as Apple? Should not one-of-kind products be produced in a facility where high ethical standards are a top priority? Apple is a successful company that has various stakeholder interests at hand including customers, regulators, lenders, investors and also the community. As consumers, purchasing devices manufactured at a facility such as Foxconn raises an even more serious question: what do we value? In a perfect world, one would think a superior product such as the iPhone would call for a superior facility in which to be manufactured and superior management overseeing the operation. However, nothing is perfect. Hence, a viable ethics code is needed at Foxconn Technology Co. as well as a team of management that is on board and complying with the code of ethics.
**Due to technical difficulties, we recently had to switch domains and transfer all of our website content. Please keep in mind that while we have been publishing articles for two years, the published dates shown may not reflect the initial publish date.