Foxconn under pressure after tenth employee suicide this year

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Taiwan electronics giant Foxconn has moved to repair its reputation after the suicide of a tenth employee this year, two others having survived attempted suicides.

Shenzen in southern China's Guangdong province, (north of Hong Kong).
Image: Fanghong.

The latest death came on the same day as Terry Gou, Chairman of Foxconn's parent Hon Hai Precision, opened the Shenzen production facility to the media for the first time. In the face of accusations that he ran a modern day sweatshop, he showed off employee recreation facilities. Gou, bowing as an expression of regret, promised to work to prevent such tragedies occurring again.

Although not a household name, Foxconn is the largest producer of electronics components and badge engineered electronics products in the world, manufacturing products for companies like Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Dell.

An electronics factory in China
Image: Steve Jurvetson.

Investigations of working conditions are underway. "Apple is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity," said Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesperson. Allen Pu of Fubon Securities said: "Hon Hai needs to resolve the issue because the situation is also negative for Apple and HP. Clients may reallocate some orders to other manufacturers."

Labor activists have criticised conditions at Foxconn's factories as "military-style", with workers working long shifts and not being able to speak to each other. However, Foxconn claims that the suicides were mostly the result of relationship problems unrelated to its own management style, and it argues that for a work force so large the number of suicides is small.

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