Working Conditions in China Drive Employees to their Deaths

Posted by jeckert on 05/27/2010

foxconn Foxconn, a unit of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, has big name clients like Apple, Hewlett Packard, and Sony Ericsson.  It manufactures what is arguably the world's most popular "techcessory," the iPhone.  But the company has been losing workers recently; not to lay-offs or firings, but to suicide. Late Wednesday, a 10th employee of Foxconn, who worked in the production site in southern China, jumped to his death from a seventh floor balcony.  After the suicide, another employee slit his wrists, but survived after receiving medical attention.  There is strong suspicion that it is the poor working conditions endured by Foxconn's 420,000 employees that have caused suicides and suicide attempts to occur with such frequency.  CBS News reports that "They [the workers] claim shifts are long, the assembly line moves too fast and managers enforce military-style discipline on the work force." According to Reuters, "All 10 of the deaths have been of young migrant workers, among the millions who leave the poor hinterlands of China for the boom towns of the south and east coastal areas in search of work and high wages." And while these suicide attempts have enraged workers and left many wondering about the possibility of  "mass hysteria" at the Chinese facilities, others may not be too surprised to learn that at such a high level of productivity, something's gotta give. The TimesOnline says, "The plant’s astonishing productivity levels have attracted global clients such as Samsung, IBM and Sony, but labour activists have long alleged that the famous efficiency comes at too high a cost." Unlike inumerable factories and manufacturing facilities in China and other parts of Asia, American manufacturers pay their workers fair, liveable wages and do their best to ensure healthy, safe working conditions all while maintaining high levels of productivity that yield quality goods. Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou, who scoots around in his private jet, has sworn to take the necessary measures to prevent suicides in the future. Read more here, here and here.

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