A ninth Foxconn worker fell to his death today just three days after the last fall. That brings the total to 11 falls at the Shenzen plant, which primarily manufactures Apple’s iPads, iPhones, and iPods (other Foxconn locations manufacture motherboards for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft game consoles and for personal computers).
The deceased was a 19-year-old male. The fall occurred around 6:30 a.m., about the same time another young male fell to his death last Friday.
Last year, Foxconn’s plant workers had a suicide rate far below the average for rural China, which has one of the world’s highest suicide rates. Last year, the company only had three suicides — and one of those three was a suspected murder (of an employee who lost an iPhone prototype) that was eventually deemed “conclusively” to be a suicide.
However, this year, a string of employees have been losing their lives in apparent suicides, falling off high windows and balconies in the Shenzhen factory town. Shenzhen holds anywhere from 330,000 to 420,000 employees.
There’s some question over whether the employees are not committing suicide, but rather falling to their deaths from sheer exhaustion. The company has reportedly been forcing employees to work long hours of overtime — often unpaid — to satisfy demand for the iPhone. The employees spend most of the day standing and reportedly can barely stand by the day’s end.
Yet another question is whether Foxconn’s policy of security harassment of employees had any role in the deaths. Apple demands unparalleled security for its production facility and Foxconn has responded by recruiting a reportedly thuggish and brutal security detail.
A video recently leaked of guards at another Foxconn plant pushing employees and pulling one employee aside and roughing him up. Shenzhen’s security staff beat up one reporter who was trying to interview employees.
Foxconn’s CEO Guo Tai-ming finally addressed the suicides, speaking to Chinese reporters today. In the short interview he said that his company was struggling to deal with the 800,000+ employees it currently has spread out across a couple of massive factory complexes.
He refuted claims that the Shenzhen factory was a “sweatshop”. In the interview he stated:
We are definitely not a ‘Sweatshop’ manufacturer. There are about 800,000 employees in China’s Foxconn, it is difficult for us to handle such a huge production team. We have (the) confidence to stabilize the whole situation.
Many of the management issues, we must only (take action) instead of talking about it, but we have always done well on (that). The press media always loves to report Foxconn’s issues, if there are really problem behind the company, it already (have fallen apart), it will not wait until now. At the moment, a lot of things cannot be said. We are quietly doing (what we can to solve the case).
Foxconn will now be playing Buddhist music on its assembly lines to try to soothe malcontent workers. It also is reportedly bringing in the Master of Buddhist Association of China to help counsel workers and release the souls of the dead workers from purgatory.
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