Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's about dignity!

Reading the headlines this morning, my attention was caught by a story from Associated Press about Chinese workers committing suicide. Wow.

So I read the article. Here are some highlights:

Title: Foxconn to give Chinese workers another pay raise

"TAIPEI, Taiwan — Foxconn workers in China will get another pay raise in coming months, on top of an increase that just took effect in response to recent worker suicides, the company said Sunday."

"Less than a week ago, the maker of iPads, iPhones and other electronic gadgets for international companies had raised workers' pay by 30 percent at its plants across China."

"This wage increase has been instituted to safeguard the dignity of workers," said Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou in the statement. "We are working diligently to ensure that our workplace standards and remuneration not only continue to meet the rapidly changing needs of our employees, but they are best-in-class."

"Labor activists accuse the company of having a rigid management style, an excessively fast assembly line and forced overwork. Foxconn denies the allegations, but it has been under great public pressure to improve conditions at its Chinese operations."

Remuneration (salary plus benefits) is about dignity. I feel bad for the ten workers in China, who were so frustrated and hopeless, that suicide was the option they took. I feel bad for their co-workers and families.

The company's ultimate response was to improve conditions (and install safety nets!)

What was the impetus to the change? ..not just the deaths (the ultimate protest), but the company "...has been under great public pressure to improve conditions..."

Public pressure can move companies, even those with a "rigid management style."

In the West, our problems pale in comparison with many parts of the world, but one thing is consistent: we are all people. When workers are faced with a lack of options, a lack of meaningful negotiations, and are met instead with inflexibility and injustice, then frustration grows.

It's not always about higher wages, but it is always about dignity, honesty, forthrightness, and trust. When management behaves in ways that undermine worker dignity, then unrest grows.

Repeated indignities large and small seem to be a recurring theme in Lowell Joint. Perhaps the current negotiation process is only high-lighting a larger problem?

Let's connect some dots and see what develops!

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