Foxconn taken to court by father of brain damaged factory worker

Apple supplier Foxconn, which has very publicly come under fire over concerns about its allegedly dismal labour practices, has been taken to court by the family of a worker who suffered brain damage following an accident in a factory in southern China, Reuters has reported.

Zhang Tingzhen, a 26-year-old engineer, was struck by an electric shock in a Foxconn factory last year, prompting doctors to surgically remove nearly half his brain and leaving him with permanent brain damage. But Foxconn threatened to stop paying for Tingzhen’s treatment and expenses if he was not moved from Shenzhen to Huizhou, the city where the company says he was hired.

Tingzhen’s father, Zhang Guangde, has challenged the company’s claims, arguing in court that his son was actually hired in Shenzhen, where worker pay and compensation is substantially higher than it is 70km away in Huizhou.

"Our evidence includes hospital correspondences, notice of hospitalization, factory salary slips, colleague declarations, they all point to the time and place of his injury and his employment being in Shenzhen," said Zhang Xiaotan, a lawyer for the family.

According to labour rights activists, this is a reflection of a typical scheme in China, wherein firms hire workers in low-wage cities like Huizhou and then send them to work in more expensive cities like Shenzhen, while keeping them on their original contracts with lower compensation.

Foxconn has not yet commented on the issue, which is sure to draw more attention to the contractor. In recent months, the company’s factories, where Apple’s iPads and iPhones are manufactured, have seen riots and other unrest. Foxconn has also admitted to using underage labour at its Chinese factories, though it has promised to improve its practices and working conditions.