Foxconn Workers Threaten Suicide As Boss Dismisses Sweatshop Tag

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Foxconn workers have once again threatened to throw themselves off the roof of a factory building

Foxconn is facing down another protest by its workforce, some of whom have threatened to throw themselves off the roof of the factory building.

The protest reportedly took place outside a Foxconn factory in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The protests involved 200 workers, according to the Times of India, which cited the Hong Kong-based activist group Information Centre for Human Rights for the number.

Suicide threat

The workers apparently threatened to throw themselves off the roof of the building in a protest over wages, the newspaper said.

This tactic mirrors a previous protest in January, when 300 employees working on the Xbox 360 assembly line at the Foxconn Technology Park in Wuhan threatened a mass suicide by throwing themselves off the roof of the building.

The Times of India cited a spokesman for Hon Hai Precision Industry, the listed unit of the Foxconn group, who said the recent protest concerned workplace adjustments and involved workers new to the plant.

“The dispute has already been settled after some negotiations involving the human resources and legal departments as well as the local government,” spokesman Simon Tsing was quoted as saying. Tsing confirmed that no-one had actually jumped off any building.

Meanwhile the Information Centre for Human Rights reportedly said one of the complaints of the workers was that they earned less in Wuhan than they had in their previous jobs. They returned to work after police intervened, it said.

This is not the first time working conditions at FoxConn have made headlines. In 2010, a number of workers committed suicide, throwing themselves from factory buildings. In May 2010, Foxconn agreed to raise the wages of its workers by 20 percent, despite reports that the Taiwanese company had considered closing its mainland Chinese plants. Foxconn also installed anti-jumper nets on its high rise buildings to prevent more suicides.

Despite these measures, Foxconn was forced to strenuously reject ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ in the Chinese media in October 2010 that its staff were being abused. These concerns about the working conditions at Foxconn, coupled with the worker suicides, led Apple and other tech giants to conduct investigations, which eventually gave the company a clean bill of health.

And in June 2010, Apple’s Steve Jobs dismissed claims that Foxconn was a sweatshop.

What’s Wrong With Sweatshop?

That position was supported in February 2011, when Apple published its annual report on its supply chain.

However all of this was undermined somewhat after Terry Gou, the CEO of Hon Hai Group, was reportedly spotted by TechEye’s Taiwanese correspondent in a TV interview, when he confronted accusations that he had been running sweatshops in China with the declaration: “What’s wrong with sweatshops?”

“We sweat and bleed, as long as we comply with the law,” he reportedly said.

More recently Apple and other tech firms have had to face fresh allegations of worker abuse at Foxconn. The New York Times ran a seven-page expose on Foxconn factory conditions in February, leading to inspections of the factories involved. In February this year, Foxconn announced a wage rise of 16-25 percent for its workers, the third increase since 2010. The head of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) also praised the factory conditions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook even visited Foxconn facilities, and the FLA report prompted Apple and Foxconn to improve working conditions.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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