May 27, 2010
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The massive Foxconn factory in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen is known for assembling famous electronic goods like Apple’s iPhone and iPad. But in recent months it has gained a darker image, as a place where distraught workers regularly throw themselves to their deaths. The latest fatality came on Tuesday morning, when a 19-year-old employee died in a fall in the company’s Shenzhen compound, according to the state-run Xinhua news service. He was the ninth worker this year to have died in a fall from factory buildings on Foxconn’s properties in Shenzhen; two have survived suicide attempts, according to state-media reports. Another teenager, who the company revealed this month died after jumping from a company building in Hebei province in January, brings the total employee death toll from falls to 10 this year.
The string of deaths has drawn attention to the labor practices of a highly successful Fortune 500 company that has 420,000 workers on its payroll in Shenzhen alone. Two dozen activists protested outside the company’s Hong Kong offices on Tuesday, calling on Foxconn to improve working conditions and raise wages. The Taiwan-owned company, which is an arm of the Hon Hai Group, has defended the treatment of its workers. “A lot of things cannot be said at this point, but we are quietly doing our job,” CEO Terry Gou told a business forum on Monday. With over 900,000 employees globally in the Hon Hai Group, Gou acknowledged the difficulties of employee management. “But,” he said, “we are confident we will get things under control shortly.” (See portraits of Chinese workers.)