The price of profit

Posted on 28 May 2010 by The Manufacturer

Electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology, whose clients include Apple, Dell and Nokia, has been rocked by a spate of suicides in China.

The tenth and most recent suspected suicide took place on Thursday and the company’s major multinational clients have voiced concerns over the deaths. Local media have questioned working conditions at the plant which employs more than 400,000 people on its 1.2 square mile site. Entry-level workers earn about 900 yuan (£90) a month at the Shenzen factory and can work up to 15 hours a day.

Apple, the maker of iPhones and iPads said in its first public comment: “We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn. We are in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously.”

Three more employees have attempted suicide at the factory, and another suicide has been reported in a separate Foxconn factory in the north of China.

The chairman of Foxconn, Terry Gou, led media on a tour of the factory and promised to do more to prevent further deaths. A young Foxconn line supervisor, Tang Wenying, told journalists allowed into the complex: “This is a good place to work because they treat us better than many [other] Chinese factories.” In an attempt to prevent more suicides, the Taiwanese-owned firm has hired 2,000 singers, dancers and gym trainers. It is also putting up netting to thwart future suicides.