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(Reuters) – When Chinese worker Wu Jun heard that her employer, the giant electronics assembly company Foxconn, had given employees landmark concessions her reaction was worry, not elation.
Wu, 23, is one of tens of thousands of migrants from the poor countryside who staff the production lines of Foxconn’s plant in Longhua, in southern China, which spits out made-to-order products for Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and other multinationals.
Foxconn’s concessions, including cutting overtime for its 1.2 million mainland Chinese workers while promising compensation that protects them against losing income, were backed by Apple, which has faced criticism and media scrutiny for worker safety lapses and for using relatively low-paid employees to make high-cost phones, computers and other gadgets.
But at the Foxconn factory gates, many workers seemed unconvinced that their pay wouldn’t be cut along with their hours. For some Chinese factory workers – who make much of their income from long hours of overtime – the idea of less work for the same pay could take getting used to.
“We are worried we will have less money to spend. Of course, if we work less overtime, it would mean less money,” said Wu, a 23-year-old employee from Hunan province in south China.
Foxconn said it will reduce working hours to 49 per week, including overtime.
“We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important,” said Chen Yamei, 25, a Foxconn worker from Hunan who said she had worked at the factory for four years.
“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,” she added. Chen said she now earned a bit over 4,000 yuan a month ($634).
Foxconn is one the biggest employers of China’s 153 million rural migrants working outside their hometowns. Compared to smaller, mainland-owned factories, workers said, its vast plants are cleaner and safer, and offer more recreation sites.
But even so, for most employees at the Foxconn plant in Longhua, a part of Guangdong province’s vast industrial sprawl, life is dominated by the repetitive routine of the production line.
Outside the Foxconn plant, off-duty employees crowded a small shopping mall. Their tightly packed apartment blocks are hemmed by hair salons, snack stores, gaming arcades and Internet “bars”, where many while away leisure hours by playing computer games or watching Korean and Hong Kong soap operas.
“I don’t go out that much as there is nothing much to do. I do go out for a meal once in a while,” said Huang Hai, a 21-year-old man who said he had worked at Foxconn’s factory for about two years.
“This is a good company to work for because the working conditions are better than a lot of other small factories.”
Huang was waiting for a friend lined up outside the recruitment centre for prospective Foxconn employees.
“I didn’t like my first job at Foxconn because it was very repetitive. It was mainly manual work and I had to hammer nails everyday,” said Huang. “Now it’s better because I work with computers.”