China - Foxconn suicides and strikes (2011)

In May a wave of worker suicides was reported at the Foxconn Technology Group in Shenzhen, which manufactures for major computer companies including for Apple. Twelve workers jumped from the buildings or attempted to do so because of harsh working conditions and management practices. Ten died and the other two were seriously injured. The Foxconn group employs a total of nearly 800,000 workers in various plants in China. At least two more workers committed suicide later in 2010. Media reports state that Ma Xiangqian, the first worker to die in 2010, was 19 years old. He had worked an average of almost 10 hours a day with total pay averaging around USD 1 an hour.

In November up to 7,000 workers at the Foxconn Premier Image Technology (China) Ltd in Foshan staged a strike over low pay. Workers reported that they had been threatened with dismissal if they did not return to work.

A report based on interviews with over 1,700 workers found that Hon Hai, Foxconn’s parent company, had long working hours, a «militaristic» work culture and mass employment of low-wage vocational college students and interns on production lines to cut costs. In the last few years many companies and multinationals such as Hon Hai have recruited from Chinese technical and vocational schools, paying lower wages and skimping on benefits. Hon Hai and Foxconn both dismissed the report.

Since the suicides, Hon Hai has pledged to improve the livelihood of its Chinese workers, but workers continue to claim excessive work. Probably as a result of poor publicity and rising labour costs, Foxconn is shifting its manufacturing bases from the south to poorer inland provinces.

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