Foxconn Chairman Calls Employees “Animals”

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou

The chairman of Apple supplier Foxconn has fanned the flames of an already growing concern about the working conditions and treatment of overseas employees who build the Cupertino-designed gadgets the market loves.

As reported by WantChinaTimes, Terry Gou, the head of Hong Hai Precision (Foxconn’s parent business group), stated during a recent year-end party: “Hon Hai has a workforce of over one million worldwide and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

Indicating that his comment was not merely made in passing or jest, Mr. Gou added that he hoped to learn from Chin Shih-chien, the director of the Taipei Zoo, and asked Mr. Chin to speak with the company’s general managers about his experience managing zoo animals.

Mr. Gou’s comments come on the heels of renewed concern by U.S. media of the treatment of foreign workers employed in the production of western electronics. A recent exposé by radio program This American Life suggested that Apple’s suppliers were not consistent in following guidelines regarding worker treatment and conditions, with substandard employee wages and brutally long shifts. Those who complain are fired and blacklisted. Those who are injured: fired.

For its part, Apple, under CEO Tim Cook’s leadership, has recently begun to publicly take an active role in addressing worker concerns at its suppliers. Earlier this month, the company released a Supplier Responsibility Report and Mr. Cook sent an email to all company employees, outlining the process Apple goes through to verify its suppliers’ conduct. In addition, Apple for the first time joined the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit labor rights organization. 

Critics of Apple and its supplier relationships claim that Apple still hasn’t released enough information so that the public and watchdog groups can verify their progress, and comments by Mr. Gou only intensify their concern. However, now that these issues are in the public eye, Apple and its competitors who also contract with the same suppliers will hopefully be pressured into further action to ensure that the gadgets we love don’t come with a high moral price.