On May 28th, under mounting pressure from labor rights group and concerned scholars around the world, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) Board of Directors expressed that they were saddened about the loss of life at Foxconn. The 8-member EICC Board, consisting of representatives from IBM, Dell, Jabil, STMicroelectronics, Cisco, Intel, Flextronics, and HP, has established a task force to study factors affecting employee health and welfare in their own facilities as well as in their suppliers in the global supply chains.

However, the EICC Board had failed to “invite” its members Apple and Foxconn to attend a phone conference with concerned civil society organizations, scheduled for June 21st. Hong Kong-based Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) believes that EICC is, in effect, protecting Apple and Foxconn from taking direct responsibility for the suicides of young workers at the workplace.

EICC is a company-only industry association established in 2004 following waves of international anti-sweatshop campaigns targeting technology brands. It published a voluntary Code of Conduct to ward off public criticisms of alleged sweatshop labor conditions in their production chains. The Code focuses on five elements: labor, health and safety, ethics, the environment, and management systems. As of December 2008, according to its first Annual Report, the EICC had 45 member companies, with an average yearly increase in membership of 55 percent. In 2009, seven companies did not renew their membership reportedly because of the economic downturn. Four new companies joined EICC in the same year. As of December 2009, EICC had 42 members.

While EICC is interested in member recruitment and renewal, SACOM is far more concerned about the mechanism under which a company’s membership is going to be suspended or disqualified.

Business interests from within the EICC network seem to discourage any serious questioning of their own failures in taking corporate social responsibility.

SACOM demands open access on-site at Foxconn’s Longhua and Guanlan plants in Shenzhen City and Foxconn’s other facilities in the north and in interior provinces in China. Our research team is seeking to look into the management methods and dormitory conditions at Foxconn during this summer. We will write up a comprehensive report for public release.

Effective July 1st, Foxconn will pay its 450,000 Shenzhen employees a wage 9% higher than the legal minimum wage level, i.e., 1,200 yuan/month. This pay rise, unfortunately, still falls short of the most basic living standards in big cities. We advocate for the right of Chinese workers to have democratic elections of union leaders, and to conduct collective consultations of wages and benefits. We also call on Apple and Foxconn’s other buyers to raise the unit price of their orders to reflect the true cost of labor. This is to ensure a decent livelihood for the people behind the “best-selling products” such as iPhones and iPads.

Additional info: