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Foxconn to employees: Hey, you should join the union

The gadget manufacturer says that it wants to raise employee awareness of the union and "enhance" representation of junior workers.

Foxconn workers in 2011.
Foxconn workers in 2011. Apple

Foxconn Technology Group is implementing a plan to increase employee participation in its labor union, the company said today in a statement obtained by CNET.

"As a part of efforts to implement the Action Plan that was developed together with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) following the assessment they conducted in early 2012, Foxconn is introducing measures to enhance employee representation in the Foxconn Labor Union and to raise employees' awareness of the organization," the company wrote today in a statement.

Apple brought in the FLA last year to inspect Foxconn's facilities and determine if there were any labor violations. The FLA determined that Foxconn -- which manufactures devices for a number of high-profile high-tech companies -- would need to make a host of changes to its operation, including reduce overtime and increase wages. Foxconn has already implemented many of the FLA's recommendations.

In its statement, Foxconn pointed out that it has had union employee representative elections since 2008. Its first and head union, the Foxconn Federation of Labor Unions, was established in 2007. Employee representatives are chosen in elections by their peers, and those votes are held every three years.

Foxconn's focus with its latest initiative is to increase the number of junior employees in its union. The company claims to have instituted a number of reforms to achieve that goal, and they will be printed in a pamphlet for employees, entitled "The Guidelines for Junior Employee Representative Election Process."

Foxconn's union efforts have been criticized on numerous occasions. In November, for example, the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that focuses on the needs of low- and middle-income families, wrote a paper criticizing Foxconn for, among other things, representation issues on the union leadership committee.

For its part, Foxconn argues that it was already providing a representative union and its latest efforts will only support those previous efforts.

"Our employees are our greatest asset and we are fully committed to ensuring that they have a positive and satisfactory working environment, which includes greater involvement in the Foxconn Labor Union and a more effective representation of their interests in the union," the company said. "Our hope is that our efforts in implementing these reforms will not only benefit Foxconn, but also help to lift the standards and practices for our industry in China."