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Foxconn's Eight Rules For Hating Your Job

It's being reported that yet another employee might have committed suicide at Foxconn's Chinese factory.

At least 10 other Foxconn employees have killed themselves so far this year.

Foxconn Group assembles the iPhone for Apple as well as Dell's computers. Both Apple and Foxconn Group have denied claims that Foxconn is running a Chinese sweatshop, but a list of employee rules coming to light doesn't cast Foxconn in a very good light. Here are eight rules that Foxconn's Chinese factory employees are allegedly expected to follow if they want to stay employed:
1. Do not join organized crime gangs or activities.
2. Do not engage in illegal gambling, prostitution or drugs.
3. Do not engage in corruption, accept bribes, accept supplier
dinners or gifts.
4. Do not visit shady entertainment venues.
5. Do not engage in improper male-female relations, i.e.
extramarital affairs.
6. Do not participate in speculative, illegal investments.
7. Do not participate in activities that are bad for physical or
mental health.
8. Employees who are on duty during long public holidays, or
take an overseas trip, must sign an “employee safety
agreement” and inform the company of their whereabouts.

Now I can understand the prohibition against drugs, bribes, gangs, gifts and corruption, which are fairly standard HR regulations. But "shady entertainment venues"? "Speculative investments"? "Activities that are bad for physical and mental health"? These rules as written are way too broad. So broad, in fact, that I'm not sure how they're enforceable.

Hey, I know people who think that having an Egg McMuffin for breakfast is bad for one's physical health but should eating one get you fired? How about listening to heavy metal albums? Is that considered bad for someone's mental health? As for "speculative investments," doesn't that pretty much describe most of Wall Street during the Oughts? And how does Foxconn define "shady entertainment," exactly? One person might think seeking out porn shops is shady behavior but there are also people who think wearing a Halloween costume is shady and obscene. We all have different moral and ethical compasses, after all. Where does Foxconn's moral and ethical compass lie?

When it comes to banning extra-marital affairs, is Foxconn talking about affairs with co-workers or with someone outside the company? The rule as written doesn't offer enough clarity to tell us. Banning relationships with co-workers is one thing -- companies prohibit or set ground rules for on-the-job romances all the time -- but it's quite another thing to ban a romantic relationship with someone who doesn't even work for the company. And is the latter really any of Foxconn's business unless it represents a big productivity or safety risk?

Rule Number Eight is dicey, too. Does it mean employees must inform the company of their whereabouts every time they walk down a new street or enter a new building while on an overseas trip or taking a long weekend? I wonder what the "employee safety agreement" includes and how vaguely it is worded.

I'm a life-long fan of Apple's products but I'm disappointed Apple isn't publicly pushing Foxconn to clarify these employee rules. Or even better, to scrap a few of them. It's being both reported and denied that Apple will give Foxconn a 2% subsidy that will cover a wage increase meant to improve employee morale.

Even if the subsidy stories are true, Apple can do more. Employee stress goes up when the rules are hazy and over-reaching, and I think it's safe to say there's some employee stress behind Foxconn's walls. Let's hope Dell and Apple -- to use one of Apple's old slogans, and in a grammatically incorrect way -- pushes Foxconn to think different about its employee rules.

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