Now we all know Foxconn is regularly harangued by the NGOs for one misdemeanour or another. Labour rights violations at its plants have been highlighted time and again so I won’t go into them all again now.
The landmark agreement with the FLA and Apple was meant to set the tone for an improvement in pay and conditions, and at the three plants audited by the FLA things do seem to be progressing pretty well.
However, outside those factories there are still some disturbing reports.
The latest came from an undercover reporter from the Shanghai Evening News who lasted 10 days as a newbie worker at Foxconn’s Yu Tian plant, making iPhone 5 devices. Filthy living conditions, bullying by staff, forced overtime – the list of misdemeanours was usual Chinese tech factory fare, although interesting to hear it from a source other than an NGO.
Maybe that’s why Foxconn broke with usual tight-lipped tradition and issued a lengthy statement on this saying it would investigate and address any issues such as those found by the hack, adding in a rare admission of fallibility, that it is “not perfect”.
More disturbing news still came to me from an unnamed source, who claimed that 100 workers at the Taiwanese ODM giant’s Zhengzhou plant – also producing iPhone 5s – have been hospitalised after a food poisoning incident.
Now I must stress that Foxconn has completely denied this with the following statement:
Foxconn has checked with the relevant departments and medical facilities at their Zhengzhou campus and they have confirmed that there has been no such incident.
I haven’t been able to verify independently with the local hospital so for now I’m keeping an open mind.
However I think it’s pretty obvious that the labour problems in Chinese tech factories are far from over and will require the continued scrutiny and determination of the big name brands as well as the not-for-profits for some time to come if genuine change is going to happen across the board.
A final, if rather depressing footnote: Foxconn is still pretty widely regarded as a leader in the tech ODM space when it comes to pay and conditions in China.
Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that, wherever in the world you travel, IT leaders are experiencing exactly the same challenges.
A day spent listening to CIOs and IT leaders at MIG’s CIO Executive Summit 2012 in Hong Kong on Wednesday confirmed my suspicions.
The major take-aways I, well, took away, from the event were that CIOs are still not taking charge of innovation, strategy and business leadership as they should; that BYOD is a huge challenge made all the more urgent by the demands of Generation Y; and that cloud projects are still by-and-large of the private variety where sensitive data is concerned.
On the latter point it was interesting to hear CIOs on stage and senior IT leaders in the audience back-and-forth about the as-yet-unproven reality of cloud computing.
This is the stuff the vendors probably don’t want you to hear, and went a little something like this:
- Never try to ‘push the envelope with a cloud project without consulting the regulators first. One big name did in Singapore and was forced to dump his Salesforce.com investment as a result.
- It’s very difficult to determine, but proper due diligence would include trying to decide where your prospective cloud provider is likely to be in 8-15 years’ time. An assessment of the cost of moving to another provider or moving everything back in house should always take place
- The more the cloud integrates with your back end systems the harder it is to switch providers. Realistically speaking you need to treat these projects like an old-school SAP implementation.
- Virtual private clouds could be the answer to many corporate IT managers’ prayers, allowing them to fulfil regulatory requirements around isolation of systems whilst taking advantage of the agility of the public cloud.
It’s the same the world over. Beneath the hype, most IT leaders are actually feeling their way with private cloud deployments and possibly using some public cloud projects for non-sensitive data.
It will take quite some time, probably years, before this changes.