For the first time in its history, Apple assembly partner Foxconn is said to be allowing its workers to elect union representatives. Foxconn will hold elections for a union chairman and 20 members of the Federation of Unions Committee. Elections will be scheduled to take place every five years.
The move comes in response to pressure on Foxconn from Apple and its own workers over pay and conditions. Protests, unofficial strike action and even riots have caused disruption. A spate of reports of worker suicides in 2009 and 2010 brought the issue into the media spotlight.
Apple required Foxconn to open its facilities for inspection by the Fair Labor Association. The FLA identified the lack of proper union representation as a key failing, along with long hours and low pay, as well as safety concerns.
“The process through which Foxconn’s current labour union representatives were chosen was not democratic because there was no open and transparent nomination of candidates, and it is not representative because more than half of the committee members are from management,” a person working on the election plans said.
Taiwan-based Foxconn employs around 1.2 million workers across China.