Monday, June 7, 2010

I've tasted degradation and found the lace and candle light

Lord of the Rings Online just went free to play. This? This is HUGE. This will change the perception of F2P games, mayhap forever. At the very least, Richard Aihoshi speaks truth when he says LotRO making this move raises the bar for every free-stop-with-an-item-shop out there.

The Black & Blue Fair is back open for business, all land issues taken care of; I don't know if all one hundred and ten of the original merchants (barring those who dropped out, one would suppose) were contacted, but when I returned to check, it looked easily as cluttered as it did before. The exception? Now things rez faster. Yay for higher prim allotments.

Meanwhile, the Mobilitysite blog mentions Steve Jobs, Apple, and world takeovers, in a very pointed way: at what price power, the article asks, and at what cost advancement? That article mentions a dozen suicides; this one mentions eleven, of which two are purported to have survived, but also mentions a staggering amount of judicial bribery and lockdowns on employees who dare to speak, along with insane unwritten rules that, many times over for many employees, may well result in them owing the company supposed to be paying them to work there!

And Foxconn, make no mistake, is the world's largest manufacturer of electronic equipment for a whole host of different companies; so if you own many Apple products, anything made by Dell, motherboards that Hewlett-Packard uses (they have long since stopped making motherboards in-country), most Cisco networking and communication equipment...you're not even safe if you're just a gamer, and own a Wii, or an XBox 360, or a Playstation 3; Foxconn makes them too.

And there has been enough pressure on Foxconn employees, impressed heavily by the upper management, to meet the deadline for the next iPhone...well, answer's in the question, there, innit? It really was a deadline--produce...or die.

So how does this downline go? Consumer demand fuels redevelopment at Apple. Okay, pressure to improve, but that's how companies work, how they challenge themselves, how they increase demand and want through creative advertising and innovative designs presented to the end user. That's been the way of commerce for centuries, now.

Save that now, there's another downline, and that one goes straight through the heart of Apple. What did Apple say to Foxconn to create this pressure-cooker environment in Taiwan and China, to motivate more people than the national population of Guyana into becoming stressed enough to think, Well, I could go to work, or...hey, I could KILL myself...

The sad thing in all of this? And believe me, the fact that people are less important than product, and have been for more than five centuries, now, does register...is that even with the pressure, even with Foxconn deliberately obfuscating exactly how many died, and where, beyond Sun Danyong, is that they're still below the Chinese national average for suicide.

On the Foxconn campuses, in the dormitories, where people are housed twelve to a single room--even if we accept the lower figures of four people dying, that would work out to almost forty-eight people a year, per every 300,000 people--and this is on average, not exact, mind; assuming this level of stress on their workers keeps going. But even so, the average statistic for people that work at other corporations, people in government, people still in school, people farming, people harvesting...all Chinese, mainland or Taiwanese alike, everywhere...Foxconn's figures in this light are well below the estimated national average of over four hundred per year that other sources have quoted. The hell? Is life in China truly that bleak?

Well, apparently, at least if you're a Foxconn employee, it is.

(And that doesn't take into account other high-stress crushing-work-ethic places like Japan, f'rinstance, where the national average is pushing three thousand per year.)

It remains to be seen what action, if any, Apple Inc. and Steve Jobs will take to address this staggering violation of human rights, at least partially at their behest. All I do know is that world attention is on Foxconn now; it may not help, but at least social disapproval still works, in some cases, and it may well allow some improvement of work situations.

I'm hoping, at the least, for no more suicides, but...it's a hard world. And it's even harder when you're undereducated, docked for socializing, missing meals because you don't want to be late, working up to eighty hours per week in overtime, and on occasion raped and beaten because your supervisors were bored.

Yeah, that'd make me want to kill myself too, if I had to face that for work conditions...day after day...week after week...and be docked pay for getting sick, collapsing from fatigue, mourning every time I lost a friend, or for saying no any time a supervisor took a shine to me...

Just remember: Apple's different. Apple's not like Microsoft. They do things in better ways.

On the backs of hundreds of thousands of Chinese working women who are so desperate for any kind of financial pay they would risk this to have money to send home to help out their familes. It breaks down, by the way, to about 900 yuan per month. This puts each worker, on average, midway between a chambermaid and a garment cutter, per recent salary averages--in 2005. Seems Foxconn is a bit behind the curve, country-wide.

So much for innovation.

[Note from the Editrix: In the day or so it took me to cobble this story together, Steve Jobs appeared at the conference, and apparently stated that Apple would ensure that Foxconn toed the line in providing safer working conditions for their employees. Foxconn retaliated by saying they would raise minimum wage for their workers by 10% in July, with more gradual pay raises to come, but said that this would result in higher prices passed on to those companies which bought from them.

[In the meantime, I've been able to find nothing in live feed coverage that mentions Jobs even saying "Wau, we didn't know. We're gonna crack down on them." I did find this mention by CNET which goes into exactly what Jobs said on the tech end of things...it's long, but there's a ton of good crunchy information on Apple developments. But Apple mentions of Foxconn? Couldn't find them...at least, not yet.

[I would point out a notable quote from the Foxconn pay raise story, though: "Hon Hai said the Company may transfer part of the financial burden brought by the salary increase to its customers, but it will take several months to judge the net cost of this move. The Company comments, 'The salary increase will bring extra cost, but will also improve the work efficiency, for it will reduce the staff wastage rate.'"

["Staff wastage" in this regard? Is a thinly veiled euphemism. What Hon Hai spokespeople actually mean? "We're going to pay them more, so they'll feel less pressured, and die less. Happy now?"]

No comments: