Ethics is the fundamental, systematic, and theoretical analysis of social values which guide the interaction between an individual and others, as well as with the environment. Precise rules and norms are applied to protect the social values, and everyone is expected to abide by them for peaceful coexistence. These social values are commonly interlinked with societal power structures as well as religious practices.
Ethical issues occur while the dealings of one person or a group of people mess about with the welfare of another person, or the society at large. Sorry to say, but ethical decision-making models, no matter how highly structured, cannot effectively portray the complication of moral predicament. Foxconn workers suicides case raises ethical issues which are discussed below.
Foxconn Technology Group is the leading manufacturer of electronics, workstations and computer accessories in the world. This multinational company is based in Shenzhen, China. Some of the items produced include; Mac mini, iPod, iPhone, Dell Computers, HP motherboards, Play station 3 and Cisco Equipment among others. The company has a population of around over 300,000 employees in its Shenzhen site plant alone. The Group's principal operations are manufacturing, dispensation and promotion of electronics, communication devices and computer accessories. The company carries out its operations in Taiwan and other countries. Most of the export products are taken to Europe, the USA, Asia and other countries. In recent years, several cases of suicidal cases have been reported from Foxconn’s employees. In 2009, the initial suicide attempt was reported, where a 25-year-old employee died by falling out from a residence. In 2010, around twelve suicide attempts cases were reported to have happened for the workers of Foxconn’s industry in Shenzhen. Therefore, the Foxconn faces a lot of ethical issues regarding the suicidal attempts.
Philosophical, moral, and social principles aids in ethical decision-making by shaping the basis for realization of inter-relationship between the institution/community based decisions and individuals’ values. Determining and administering of what is regarded as right may be challenging as exact precepts of morality and ethical principles are hard to establish (Malan & Smith 2001). Nevertheless, an individual is expected to weigh his ideas against the societal values so as to act in the best way possible as par the situation. He/she should be ready to utilize the applicable and logical methods during decision making especially in scenarios where right or wrong answers are not apparent.
Today, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), is a challenge that face both emerging and existing businesses, where every business decision can be considered as exploitation of the rights of employees. The suicide tragedies at technology firm, Foxconn has additionally demonstrated the CSR challenge in provisions of company’s’ association with local employees. Foxconn manufactures products on agreement for other industries such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Sony. Currently, Foxconn’s labor is provided by young migrant workers. The mode in which workers are handled by the Foxconn has raised a dispute to its CSR philosophy; that lay emphasis on provision to society welfare, esteemed staff, pay employees a reasonable and rational salary, offer safe and happy living environment for the workforce and eventually to permit migrant workers in fitting as true “citizens of the enterprise” (Sacom, 2010).
1.Principle of Utility/ Utilitarianism
The statement of belief which admits to the basis of principles, Utility Principle, applies that activities are right if they are likely to endorse happiness, and wrong if they bring sadness. Here, John Stuart refers to happiness as the anticipated pleasure, and the lack of pain; by sadness and the adversity of pleasure.
In the cooperate world, decision making should be done having in mind the interest of the stakeholders and must provide the most potent with slightest harm for all the struck by its repercussions (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, Meyer, & J., 2010). Consequently, Foxconn ought to think of all its shareholders when attempting to or making decisions. It is supposed to weigh its proceeds and the trade name image at the same time as ensuring accommodative working and living environment to the workers so as to relieve the workers, sister companies, consumers and the society.
However, in the process of solving the issues with the serial suicide cases, the management of Foxconn did not take the sound of all in their decision making; they only gave emotional guidance to a section of staff, and built bars with nets to prevent workers from hitting the ground if they jump down. The management also decided to vend all the residence halls to the government to lower the risk of taking responsibility. These decisions were not effective since what the management was required to do is to allow the workers exercise their civil liberties and being handled ethically. Conducting psychological training for 100 of workers was not effective considering the large number of over 800000 workers. Furthermore, the use of bars and nets only prevents workers from fall out of their premises but does not stop the idea of committing suicide. Other ways are still available for workers to commit suicide. Taking in to account that the workers received low wages; selling the halls of residence to the government would surely worsen the situation.
2.Contemporary SCT: John Rawls’ Theory of Justice (1971)
This theory addresses the issue of scarcity of resources in relation to allocation decisions. The resources ought to be shared adequately not to discriminate others. The theory of social justice aims at setting up commonly appropriate values to guide in resource allocation decision- making process. In the cooperate world, while taking into consideration the consequences of a decision, we regularly have to reflect on alternatives between track of actions which might result in better effects on some but terrible on others. The question of dispersive justice relay to issues existing among contradictory interests. I will relate the components of Rawls’s theory to the Foxconn suicide issues.
Employees at the plant in Shenzhen, reside in a little town which is all inclusive; with offices, factories, apartments, sports facilities, and internet cafes, and many more. It gives the impression that Foxconn puts efforts in tying to facilitate employee’s work and leisure life; however, the employees had to work overtime and on weekends in order to facilitate their living, since their meager wages could not allow them to consume anything outside the city. They lacked time for refreshment. Policies enforced by Foxconn were rather strict. During working hours, the workers were not allowed to communicate with each other nor were they allowed to walk along the street side by side. The available working resources were inadequate. In the workplace, the environment is always overcrowded with 900 workers simultaneously on one floor. In the halls of residence, the workers lived more than 10 min one bedroom. These conditions could make the young employees feel stressed due to the monotonous environment.
Virtue ethics are used to determine whether the industry hinder or develop virtues, the Foxinns has long been so insensitive and neglect the needs of their workers. Application of virtue ethics in corporations calls for susceptible approval of personal character and substantial acquaintance with an individual’s psychology. In order to build back the brand and deal with the crisis of ongoing suicide cases, Foxconn ought to improve its workers’ present living and operational provision. Furthermore, a better remuneration scheme will be a substantial incentive for the workers to value their well being and work hard. For example, the company may institute a position of workers delegate in a ten to twenty workers’ team. Then perform evaluation on the performance of the members within the team, and award the best a bonus and become a delegate for the group. By so doing, workers will have a reason to improve on their performance as they look forward for the bonus and promotion. Also, the team delegates can assist the team members to take care of each other. This will give the members a sense of belonging to the group also to the company. The members will be free to interact with each other and share their experiences and challenges that need to be addressed in the company.
The main suppliers of Foxconn products, for example, Sony and Dell should have supplementary control for Foxconn. For instance, they can send detectives to the company to investigate on the operations and workers conditions in the industry. This will motivate or make Foxconn handle their workers better since the company will fear lose collaboration with the supply companies. These measures will ensure, better working and accommodation environment for employees. The better living conditions for workers will see to it that workers enjoy their work and reduce the suicide attempts thus; Foxconn will be viewed as a moral corporation so as to reassure more stakeholders. Even though, it appears as if expenditure of incorporating these measures to be moderately high, the benefits earned from its stakeholders is higher than the instances everybody consider Foxconn as an unethical corporation.
4.Social contract theory
The social contract theory comprises the duty to avoid conflicting with other people’s rights. In the social contract theory, people have an obligation to defend the community. As an individual grow from childhood to adulthood, their duties and responsibilities transform to go with his capability, the same case applies to the employees as they join their working environment. The Foxinns restricted the workers from taking the responsibilities to themselves but pressurized them to do as the management desired.
The constraint of employees’ liberty to mingle and converse has critically violated the fundamental human lenience level. The Foxinn did not allow workers to have a resting time when the workers could associate with peers and make new friends. Communication is essential to build a strong business relationship. Communication can be enhanced in practically all workplace, regardless the diligence or size. Communication is the only best way for information to effectively spread; all over the company in order employees can be knowledgeable to the level that they necessitated to properly accomplish their purpose. Poor communication not only leads to confusion but also lead to poor production. The employees lack information for the suitable achievement of their assignments. The employees need to be updated with the present position of the company. Also, the management should heed to learn the problems with the workers and plan on ways of solving them. Though, no codified regulation to deal with communication issue, lack of liberty to socialization is an acceptable in the society. This has portrayed Foxinns as not fulfilling moral responsibility in the society.
The attitude of collective responsiveness applied by Foxconn in the company, whereby, they control the workers in order to maximize their output. The workers raised the right to social, which allows workers to communicate and provide means of allowing them determine their cause of cause of alarm. Nevertheless, Foxconn has ignored these rights and pressurized the workers on compliance to the operational needs. The company failed to identify and comply timely with the workers social needs and expectation (Ackermen, 1975). Though, the company has put on appropriate measures to redress their psychological depression; for example, use of phone line with professional counselors to handle these cases, this was rather late since the incidences had already happened. Foxconn focused on achieving legal and its economic duty to the shareowners and society but the disappointment of the industry to be acquainted with and react to the societal dilemma created by workers will make Foxconn not a CSR corporation (Preston & Post, 1975).
Foxconn ought to examine its reactive strategy. It should appreciate the need for respecting the human needs of socialization and self actualization. It is unethical and inhuman in preventing the workers from their social life through isolation. Foxconn must assume an accommodative strategy which provides that decisions made within the company should be accordance with the society expectations and demand.
Although, there are no strict laws governing how salary should be derived; Foxconn needs to re-structure their wage scheme in relation to the type of work performed and the cost of living at the time. There should be less disparity between the cost of living and the corresponding wage. By so doing, Foxconn will be viewed as socially responsible and fulfils the expected ethical responsibility.
Foxconn should work towards support from the local society and the government through social improvement. They need to provide a suitable living and working environment as well as providing an environment for personal development. This will reduce the company’s exposure as “target” to the interested groups on compliance with CSR regulations.