Dignity works for some, not others

  • Colours of China
  • Monday, 14 Sep 2020

THE Chinese were fuming as they watched a video that went viral on social media recently.

It was a clip of 800 new recruits reporting for work at a manufacturing plant of Pegatron Corporation, which assembles Apple’s iPhones.

In the Aug 5 clip, it showed the new staff gathering at an empty space of a manufacturing section of the factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu province.

Standing before them were three men – said to be from the training team – handing out employee passes.

The process was running smoothly but as the camera zoomed in on the card collection table, one of the trainers was seen throwing the passes on the floor as he was calling out employee names one-by-one.

The employees had to bend down to pick them up, a posture deemed as though they were kowtowing to the “seniors”.

This enraged the Chinese, who felt the act was humiliating.

“This is ridiculous, it’s like they are throwing bones to dogs. Even I don’t treat my pet that way, ” wrote a netizen.

Internet users urged the employees to protest or quit their jobs while calling for the labour authority to take action against the company.

In an immediate damage control move, the Taiwanese-owned company, which manufactures electronic products such as cellphones and notebooks, apologised for the disrespectful act.

In a statement, it said those involved would be punished accordingly.

Later, the local media reported that two of the men had been sacked.

Two days after the incident, a follow-up video saw netizens cheering on after seeing a long queue of people with luggage lining up in the facility, some walking out of it.

It also featured the workers’ dormitories in messy condition as though they had been ransacked.

According to the cameraman, 2,900 of the 3,000 workers resigned in defence of their dignity and rights.

Some netizens, who claimed to be former workers of the factory, posted videos or wrote on social media to express their ill-feeling towards the corporation.

One of them claimed that his resignation was not accepted by the management. Instead, they asked him to leave.

“Missing in action means I will not get paid for the days I have worked. On top of that, I could be sued for damages caused to the company, ” said the Internet user.

Global Times reported that Pegatron’s Kunshan plant has eight different labour disputes since April this year.

Pegatron is Apple’s second biggest contract manufacturer after Foxconn, another Taiwanese-owned company, in China.

The company, however, denied the mass resignation, saying it was normal as turnover of workers was high among factories.

Whatever it is, the saga did not affect the factory’s operations.

Local journalists, who went to check on the plant, saw about 2,000 people queuing up for job interviews.

It seemed that the disrespectful act failed to put people off. Perhaps having a full stomach is more important.

The gigantic population of China has created a heated competition in the job market with employers facing no difficulties in hiring new staff.

“If you don’t do it, thousands of people are out there waiting to take over your job, ” this is what the Chinese always say.

This belief has caused an unhealthy work environment in the country, including the 996 system, which I have written about before, and no overtime pay for additional hours.

“No one dares to leave before others, worried that the bosses would think he or she is slacking.

“And eventually, this became a culture. It is not like we have a lot of things to do, ” said a Chinese friend.A Malaysian senior executive who worked for an electronics manufacturer said he would have his salary deducted for half a day if he goes on sick leave.

Although high-ranking executives and those in information technology or finance-related sectors get a handsome salary, wages of general workers are only enough to make ends meet.

Foxconn came under international limelight after a spate of suicides among workers in 2010, with 14 people jumping off buildings at its plants around the country.

It was so serious that the company had to install safety netting on buildings.

Long working hours, low pay, forced overtime, inhumane and abusive treatment by its management were said to be among the reasons for the crisis.

Even so, the corporation has never faced a shortage of workers.

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Beh Yuen Hui , Colours of China , job , workers , abuse


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