News / Asia

Outside Glitzy Taiwan Trade Show, Workers Fight for Pay and Rest

Vendors explain their products on the opening day of the Computex exhibition at the Taipei World Trade Center in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2012.
Vendors explain their products on the opening day of the Computex exhibition at the Taipei World Trade Center in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2012.
Ralph Jennings
TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan’s annual Computex trade show opened with labor groups  highlighting workers’ rights issues outside the glitzy trade show venues. Tech firms and government agencies have pledged to go easier on workers in what is turning out to be a tough year for business. 
 
Product launches are what makes the Computex tech show one of the biggest annual tech shows in the world. The event expects 120,000 visitors who will be examining the latest hardware and software displayed by 1,800 tech firms. Many are trying to close deals this year on tablet PCs that use Microsoft’s long awaited, easy-to-use Windows 8, and cloud computing systems that allow for free, personalized storage of games or movies in cyberspace.
 
The annual five-day show comes as PC shipments are sagging this year and labor problems fester in parts of Asia.

Tracy Tsai, research director with the Gartner market analysis firm in Taipei, says industry growth is slow. She says worldwide PC shipments are forecast to grow by just four percent this year, led by Asia at nine percent. She says the global economic slump has had a direct impact on shipments.
 
But the Gartner firm expects growth in global PC shipments to hit double digits next year. Microsoft is widely expected to boost business for mobile PC makers with the release of Windows 8. That version of Windows is due by year’s end and will improve Microsoft’s earlier mobile operating systems, by combining touch functions with the standard keyboard and include an app store similar to Apple’s. Silicon Valley’s microprocessor maker, Intel, and the world’s best known PC giants, are using the trade show to display their devices that use Windows 8. Among them are super-thin, lightweight and high-speed ultrabook computers that were introduced in Taiwan last year.
 
J.T. Wang, chairman and chief executive officer of Taiwan’s top PC maker Acer says the new Microsoft system should improve its sagging business. His company's revenues declined 24 percent last year.
 
“It is a good decision for Microsoft to decide to have the preview of Windows 8 in Computex 2012," he said. "I’ve never been so supportive for Microsoft. We have a good opportunity to grow again after the Windows 8 launch and we see this as a great opportunity for Acer to get back to the sustainable growth.”
 
The Taiwan government looks toward the annual show to stimulate local PC makers such as Acer and its cross-town rival Asustek Computer, as high-tech makes up about one-eighth of the island’s economy. The trade promotion agency in charge of Computex expects the show to generate a stunning $28 billion in business deals. That would be up from years past and offset what the agency acknowledges as sluggish high-tech export returns so far this year.
 
But visitors at Computex will not see what labor activists say is happening at Taiwanese offices where engineers put in unpaid hours and factories where workers earn the equivalent of $635 per month, which they say is too little to support themselves.

Du Guang-yu, adviser to the Taoyuan County labor dispute resolution agency Serve the People Association, says workers are afraid to speak out. He says wages are below the cost of living, difficult even for unmarried workers.  He says engineers earn more, but they do unpaid overtime and spend up to 16 hours per day working. Du argues that employers would simply fire workers who dared to lodge protests about their wages or working hours.
 
Labor groups allege fatigue and illness caused by the extra hours. The Taiwan government’s Council of Labor Affairs has pledged more oversight of unpaid long hours.
 
Factory workers in China and Vietnam are also fighting for higher pay, as consumer prices rise. Vietnamese workers, who take in an average of $100 per month, are known for staging sudden strikes that can stop assembly lines. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin advocacy group says in China factories that roll out some of the world’s best known PCs and smartphones hire young migrant workers for long hours and offer few breaks.
 
The Labor Bulletin says wages are rising, but barely keeping pace with China’s spiraling costs of living. Because of pay disputes, strikes in China’s manufacturing sector rose to 20 cases in April.
 
After a month-long investigation, the Washington-based advocacy group Fair Labor Association says Apple’s main China contractor Foxconn should improve worker safety and reduce hours. It found that 14 percent of the workers at three factories run by the Taiwan-based electronics firm may be underpaid. Foxconn’s south China plant was known for a mysterious rash of worker suicides in 2010.
 
Apple has declined to comment on labor conditions at contractor factories in China. But after the Fair Labor Association findings came out, news reports said Apple had agreed to make changes. New rules would reduce any further labor violations at the Chinese factories that churn out its ever popular iPhones and iPads as Taiwan’s PC giants try to cut into Apple’s dominant position in the world market.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs