Foxconn has confirmed that it is pressing ahead with its plan to replace its increasingly tricky staff with robots.
After all, robots will always work, and will not get depressed, kill themselves, or moan to western news media that they are being exploited.
CEO Terry Gou who once famously described his staff as animals, and he was the zoo keeper said that in three years, Foxconn will probably use robots and automation to complete 70 percent of its assembly line work.
Previously Gou said he hoped to one day deploy a ”robot army” at the company’s factories, as a way to offset labor costs and improve manufacturing.
This will be great news for Apple, which is Foxconn’s biggest customer, and found that its image was a little tarnished by the fact that its main supplier was installing nets to catch people who threw themselves off buildings.
Labour watchdog groups have complained that Foxconn workers have in the past faced long hours and harsh treatment from management.
Last year, Gou said that the company already had a fully automated factory in the Chinese city of Chengdu that can run 24 hours a day with the lights off.
Gou declined to say more about the factory, or what it produced, but Foxconn has been adding 30,000 industrial robots to its facilities each year, he said in June.
Gou said his company needed to adopt more automation, due to the potential for labor shortages. Young people won’t do this kind of work, and won’t enter the factories, he moaned.
Malaysian electronics companies are routinely using forced labour systems to get products to market, a human rights group claims.
The report is the result of a two-year study funded by the US Department of Labour and undertaken by Verité, a nonprofit organisation focused on labour issues.
More than 500 migrant workers at around 200 companies in Malaysia’s IT manufacturing sector were surveyed and one in three were working under conditions of forced labour.
Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité, said workers were lured to the company using deceptive adverts. The job looks good enough that they pay a broker to apply, often borrowing money from friends and family to do so.
When they arrive, their passport is taken by their employer and they’re threatened with deportation if they don’t work overtime. Since they are broke, and do not have a passport and with little knowledge of the legal process, they accept the increased workload.
The fees paid to brokers to obtain the overseas work are crippling and more than 90 per cent say that they pay them. Three quarters said they borrowed money to do so. More than half said it took more than a year of work to clear the debt, and they cannot leave Malaysia until it was paid.
Many of the factories were operated by subcontractors or suppliers to major brand-name companies, and Viederman said that all companies sourcing from Malaysia should audit their supply chain.
Companies should amend their codes of conduct for suppliers to ban the payment of fees to brokers and ensure workers are allowed to keep their identity documents when they arrive, he said.
The US Department of State said the situation in Malaysia had worsened in its annual report on human trafficking. The government there made “limited efforts to improve its flawed victim protection regime” despite assurances it would work to solve the problem.
The Chinese subsidiary of Shinyang Engineering has started supplying parts to Samsung a month after business ties were cut over child labour allegations.
Samsung halted business with Dongguan Shinyang Electronics after China Labor Watch found at least five child workers without contracts at the plant.
The kids were working on the assembly lines at Dongguan Shinyang and yet a month earlier an independent audit by Samsung found no child labour at the site.
Shinyang said that a third-party firm supplying workers had brought in child labourers around the end of June with forged identification.
There are no child workers at Dongguan Shinyang now and the children working at the plant have been let go.
Samsung suppliers have been under watch since 2012, when China Labor Watch found seven children younger than 16 were working for one of the South Korean firm’s China-based suppliers. Chinese law forbids hiring workers under 16.
Apple had a similar problem with some of its Chinese contacts and people objecting to Foxconn workers throwing themselves off buildings rather than making its shiny toys.
A complaint from Labour MP Helen Goodman, shadow minister for media and communications, looks like it will lead to an investigation from the UK’s National Audit Office about the “value-for-money” of the 4G auction.
A letter seen by the Guardian from NAO’s auditor general Amyas Morse to Labour MP Helen Goodman confirmed that the Office intends to “conduct a value-for-money study of Ofcom’s recent auction of 4G spectrum”. The NAO is apparently getting the investigation ready, prompted by Goodman’s complaints, which raised Ofcom chief exec Ed Richards’ concerns that the Coalition hadn’t focused on maximising auction revenues.
Goodman told Morse that “by not making maximising the auction’s revenues an objective for Ofcom, the government has failed to get value for money on this project”.
The Treasury forecasted £3.5 billion from the auction, a small amount next to 200’s 3G auction which raised £22.5 billion.
Auction bidders themselves have stated the auction had been poorly designed – as Ofcom didn’t raise the amount the government was looking for, or make sure spectrum went to everybody who wanted it, an anonymous bidder told the Guardian.
The NAO will not be able to force another auction, however, a report will go to the Commons public accounts committee – which can grill chancellor George Osborne for a response.
However, Ofcom claimed the auction was a success which “will deliver the maximum benefit to UK citizens and consumers in line with Ofcom’s statutory duties”. The body insisted the auction will create satisfactory competition which will lead to further investment. “The auction was designed to promote competition and ensure coverage, rather than to raise money,” an Ofcom spokesperson said.
Labour MP Clive Betts has expressed concern that the ICT behind the Universal Credit system are not up to scratch – and that that he has heard evidence that fraud detection is still at an early stage in development.
In a report from the Communities and Local Government Committee, Betts said the Department for Work and Pensions has to “provide swift assurance that the transition to Universal Credit will not leave the benefit system vulnerable to fraud”. This could prove particularly embarrassing for the Coalition as Conservative politicians have claimed the reforms are partly to prevent fraud.
The first trial will begin late this month in Greater Manchester, the BBC reports..
Director of cybersecurity at Thales UK, Ross Parsell, warned that MPs are “absolutely right” to flag their concerns.
“Although the Public Sector Network (PSN) will provide a secure back-end communications infrastructure, a question mark still remains over whether the government will be able to verify, manage and protect the identity of claimants is still under question,” Parsell said.
Parsell said that although it is possible to apply for a passport or a new driving licence online, the citizen is paying cash to the government – to date we haven’t seen a system that works the other way round, and this “is where the risk likes”.
“If a high percentage of transactions are fradulent, the government could come under severe pressure,” Parsell said. “With 1.56 million people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance at a minimum of £56.25 a week, just that element of welfare presents a £4.56 billion fraud risk over the course of a year”.
Parsell suggested a possible answer would be using a chip & pin system for authentication.