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'We are here to work and not to play'

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Labor-conditions activists and feel-good petitioners may be pleased with Apple's agreement with contract-manufacturing giant Foxconn to cut back on workers' overtime, but there's another affected class that's not as pleased with the outcome: the workers themselves.

"We are worried we will have less money to spend," Foxconn worker Wu Jun told a Reuters reporter buttonholing employees outside the gates of Foxconn's factory in Longhua, China. "Of course, if we work less overtime, it would mean less money."

Foxconn has said that it will reduce overtime to 36 hours per month – as required by Chinese labor law – but that it would take until July of next year to implement that move, considering that it will need to construct more workers' dormitories and related amenities to add the employees it will need to keep production levels up with fewer hours per worker.

"We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important," said four-year Foxconn employee Chen Yamei. "We have just been told that we can only work a maximum of 36 hours a month of overtime. I tell you, a lot of us are unhappy with this. We think that 60 hours of overtime a month would be reasonable and that 36 hours would be too little."

Foxconn, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry and the employer of 1.2 million souls, has said that it would increase the compensation of employees to make up for lost overtime.

In addition, however, Foxconn is working to cut labor costs by replacing some workers with robots over the next three years – one million robots, according to a report last July by Xinhua.

Such a move might eventually help maintain Foxconn's margins and prevent factories from moving to countries like the Philippines with lower labor costs, but it won't come as good new to current Foxconn employees such as Huang Hai.

"This is a good company to work for because the working conditions are better than a lot of other small factories," he told Reuters. ®

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