While Foxconn is a Taiwanese company, it puts together iPhones and other gadgets at plants located across mainland China.
Foxconn, which is China’s largest private employer and has about a million on its payroll, is sensitive to any escalation in the trade dispute that impacts Apple, the source of more than half of Hon Hai’s revenue. China’s rising economic and technological prowess is at the heart of a dispute with the US which, while waged through retaliatory trade tariffs, is also aimed at prying open the Asian nation to US businesses and restricting the use of government aid to advance strategically important industries.
“The biggest challenge facing Foxconn is a US-China trade war,” Gou said. “The trade war is not about trade, but it is a tech war and a manufacturing war.” Gou refrained from criticising either side in current negotiations, saving his sharpest comments for domestic labour laws, arguing that “unreasonable” restrictions on overtime hours hurt his workers and the company’s competitiveness.
He told shareholders that his workers actually want to work more hours and that forcing them to put in less time reduces their income.
Foxconn has drawn fire for years over practices such as allowing overtime to soar during the peak season, when it sharply ramps up production to get devices to market in time for the holidays.
Gou argued that Foxconn should be governed by US regulations since, as the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, a large swath of its customers from Apple to Amazon.com Inc. are American. The CEO also repeated a pledge to employ robots to replace 80 per cent of workers in coming years, as one potential solution.
“China has tougher overtime regulations than the US and the European Union, and they understand those are unreasonable regulations, unreasonable laws,” Gou said. “Right now during the low season, we are following China’s regulations, and in the peak season we are following US regulations.”