Critical Jabil report- July 1
I've spent extensive time in factories in mainland China, and even lived and worked in China from 2005 to 2007. The allegations by the National Labor Committee may appear terrible by American labor standards, but by Chinese labor standards they actually make it seem like this is a good factory to work for.
Workers sleeping 6 to a dorm room is not bad at all. Many factories sleep as many as 12 to a room.
Working on your feet for 12 hours per day is also normal, as is scheduled bathroom breaks. This is not so different from American factories, and workers in China by law are paid overtime after 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week.
All factories look like "minimum security prisons" with tall fences and unarmed guards. This system is designed to protect the workers in the factory by keeping out thieves and racketeers, not to keep them prisoners.
I'm also not sure what NLC means by "subsistence wages." Minimum wage in Guandong province is now around $120 a month, up from around $70 a month three years ago. The factory takes care of the workers in sort of a paternal way in keeping with the expectation by the Chinese to have somebody take care of them whether it is a parent, employer, or the government.
Many of these workers are migrants who moved from a rural farm for the money they can make in a factory in the city. And most of them send money back to their family regularly - supporting elderly parents, or the education of younger siblings.
These Chinese workers are very industrious, and are constantly attempting to improve their lifestyle and status by moving to better factories, reading self-improvement books, or taking English classes so they can work in a foreign company. Most of them would prefer to work in a foreign-owned factory, such as Jabil, above a Taiwanese, Hongkongese, or Chinese owned factory.
A reputable foreign company such as mine, or one of Jabil's customers such as Cisco or HP, would certainly conduct regular inspections of any supplier in China to make sure they are abiding by local regulations as well as detailed, agreed-upon standards for treatment of employees. If a factory is found to be mistreating, cheating, or underpaying employees or employing under-aged or illegal temporary workers, there are many other competing factories that are willing to step up and capture that business without resorting to shady tactics.
I suspect that the NLC is playing on the sensibilities and emotions of Americans, and targeting Jabil Circuit because it is a large American corporation with very recognizable customers, while really not taking into account the realities of life and work in China.
David A Sousa
Director of Global Product Management
Manhattan Computer Products
A Division of IC Intracom
550 Commerce Blvd