Apple partner Foxconn says it's not a 'sweatshop' as suicides mount

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
A Chinese employee of Foxconn, the overseas manufacturer of numerous Apple products, jumped from a building to his death Tuesday, marking the 10th apparent suicide for the company in the last year.



According to the Associated Press, Li Hai, a 19-year-old worker who had been with the company for just 42 days, committed suicide on Tuesday. The death was the ninth at Foxconn's plant in the southern city of Shenzhen, a massive facility that houses more than 300,000 workers, while a tenth suicide occurred in January at a smaller plant in the norther Hebei providence. Two others at Shenzhen also attempted suicide, but survived.



Foxcon Chairman Terry Gou spoke with reporters on Monday, before the latest death, and said his company is "not running a sweatshop. We are confident we'll be able to stabilize the situation soon."



Last Friday, a 21-year-old worker at the factory jumped from a four-story building. That incident came only days after Southern Weekend issued an undercover report, revealing that employees sign "voluntary overtime affidavits" to take home more than the $132 equivalent local minimum wage that can be earned through a regular 36-hour workweek. Workers at the plant reportedly said, "without overtime, you can hardly make a living."



The most high-profile Foxconn-related suicide occurred in July of 2009, when a worker jumped from a 12-story building after one of 16 prototype iPhones he was responsible for went missing. Reports claimed that the man told friends before his death that security guards with Foxconn had aggressively questioned him regarding the missing prototype. Company officials alleged that the employee had a suspicious history.



Foxconn is believed to be the manufacturer of Apple's next-generation iPhone, expected to be unveiled at the start of the annual Worldwide Developers Conference, with a keynote from Chief Executive Steve Jobs set for June 7. The partnership with Foxconn has remained, but Apple now conducts an annual audit of its overseas partners. Last year's review found that more than half weren't paying their workers valid overtime rates.



Another Apple partner, Wintek, also recently came under fire in China when a number of employees were reportedly exposed to a poisonous chemical, n-hexane, which was used to clean the displays of some iPhones. Wintek said it treated workers for the exposure, but some have planned a lawsuit against the company. At least 62 workers have allegedly been hospitalized from exposure to n-hexane since August of 2009.



Despite its disclosures through the annual audits, first begun in 2006, Apple's partnerships with businesses in China have not gone without scrutiny. In February, U.S. Sen Dick Durbin, D-Ill., questioned the Mac maker, along with 29 other technology companies, for information on its human rights practices as they relate to Apple's presence in China.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 72
    formerarsgmformerarsgm Posts: 191member
    We're not a sweat shop, BUT... We will allow our employees to work 100+ hours each week in order to earn a decent wage. BUT, it's all legal cause they sign a release to be worked into the ground. AND, we provide cute white uniforms with no pockets for a nominal fee.
  • Reply 2 of 72
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,858member
    This really represents a failure of the Chinese government to pass and enforce labor protection laws. If Intel employees were committing suicide over harsh conditions at a plant in the US, would it be Apple's responsibility to investigate and blow the whistle? Of course not -- it would be the responsibility of the state and federal governments to take action against Intel. Similarly, it really ought to be the Chinese government taking the lead here, not Apple. I mean, it's nice that Apple is doing it, but this is ultimately a Chinese failure.
  • Reply 3 of 72
    ihxoihxo Posts: 562member
    At this point I think they really should investigate to see if it's really suicide.
  • Reply 4 of 72
    joe hsjoe hs Posts: 488member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FormerARSgm View Post


    We're not a sweat shop, BUT... We will allow our employees to work 100+ hours each week in order to earn a decent wage. BUT, it's all legal cause they sign a release to be worked into the ground. AND, we provide cute white uniforms with no pockets for a nominal fee.



    unfortunatly that's true :/
  • Reply 5 of 72
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    300,000 people living in housing facilities must be very stressful regardless of the actual working conditions. Most of those people are probably young not used to be away from their families. I can see where 10 people a year might be unstable enough to become suicidal. What is that? .003 percent?
  • Reply 6 of 72
    nothlitnothlit Posts: 12member
    The World Health Organization indicates the nationwide suicide rate in China is something like 14 per 100,000 people. Foxconn's 10 out of 300,000 in one year is actually lower than that.
  • Reply 7 of 72
    dougdoldedougdolde Posts: 53member
    Yeah but we could never afford all our cool Apple toys without slaves making them for us. Thanks Mr. How Long.
  • Reply 8 of 72
    stonefreestonefree Posts: 242member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    This really represents a failure of the Chinese government to pass and enforce labor protection laws. If Intel employees were committing suicide over harsh conditions at a plant in the US, would it be Apple's responsibility to investigate and blow the whistle? Of course not -- it would be the responsibility of the state and federal governments to take action against Intel. Similarly, it really ought to be the Chinese government taking the lead here, not Apple. I mean, it's nice that Apple is doing it, but this is ultimately a Chinese failure.



    Well Apple is demanding they produce the goods at the lowest possible price, so this is a consequence of that.



    For supposedly premium products, why does Apple use a low tier manufacturer like Foxcon? Their motherboards not well regarded in the PC world, so I doubt things are different with Apple. Mac do seem to have very high rates of logic board failure.
  • Reply 9 of 72
    str1f3str1f3 Posts: 573member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Nothlit View Post


    The World Health Organization indicates the nationwide suicide rate in China is something like 14 per 100,000 people. Foxconn's 10 out of 300,000 in one year is actually lower than that.



    Before you start spouting those statistics, you should read the story of what life is like for those workers. I would kill myself too if I lived like that.



    http://gizmodo.com/5542527/undercove...s-hell-factory
  • Reply 10 of 72
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post


    This really represents a failure of the Chinese government to pass and enforce labor protection laws. If Intel employees were committing suicide over harsh conditions at a plant in the US, would it be Apple's responsibility to investigate and blow the whistle? Of course not -- it would be the responsibility of the state and federal governments to take action against Intel. Similarly, it really ought to be the Chinese government taking the lead here, not Apple. I mean, it's nice that Apple is doing it, but this is ultimately a Chinese failure.



    It may not be Apple's responsibility per se, but that doesn't not mean they have to sit idly by. They are in a unique position to apply pressure and affect change. They could really take the lead here as far as computer companies go like they have with their "green" initiatives. You are paying a premium for a "boutique" computer. It would be nice to see that extra expense be leveraged for a program like this.
  • Reply 11 of 72
    zindakozindako Posts: 468member
    Doesn't China have like a law that prohibits its citizens from having more than two children?
  • Reply 12 of 72
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,152member
    This is nonsense and shameful reporting. Of course, the author fails to mention that FoxConn labor force is larger than some cities and statistically, the suicide rate for that number of people they still falls below the "norm" for a city with that general population. But hey, the author gets extra web hits by inserting "Apple" into it.



    There could be numerous reasons why those individuals decide to commit suicide. Factor in their age, the stress of trying to make a living, they got dumped by their girlfriend, etc...



    It's still sad to read it. At the minimum, I hope the negative press covereage FoxConn and Wintek is receiving will at least lead to better working conditions instead of the herded farm animals style of living.
  • Reply 13 of 72
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,152member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zindako View Post


    Doesn't China have like a law that prohibits its citizens from having more than two children?



    Yes. A friend of mine here is an exchange student from Beijing. She told me that the single-child policy is still in effect.
  • Reply 14 of 72
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post


    Yes. A friend of mine here is an exchange student from Beijing. She told me that the single-child policy is still in effect.





    That in itself can have negative effects on a child's mental well being. Two parents and four grand parents all spoiling them. An entire society without a brother or sister.
  • Reply 15 of 72
    eaieai Posts: 417member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by str1f3 View Post


    Before you start spouting those statistics, you should read the story of what life is like for those workers. I would kill myself too if I lived like that.



    http://gizmodo.com/5542527/undercove...s-hell-factory



    Sure, but that's not really the point. This article is saying that suicides are 'mounting', but in fact the suicides are below the national average for China as well as the US and a large number of other countries.



    The fact that the working conditions are bad is obviously of serious concern - but the suicide rate doesn't really seem to be.
  • Reply 16 of 72
    ajitmdajitmd Posts: 365member
    Apple needs to move its manufacturing to the US and invest heavily in automation. There no justification to use economic slavery in the quest for profits. Especially for a company with $30-40B in cash. There are a lot of states in the US that do not have relatively low labor cost, and no state income taxes.
  • Reply 17 of 72
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by stonefree View Post


    Well Apple is demanding they produce the goods at the lowest possible price, so this is a consequence of that.



    For supposedly premium products, why does Apple use a low tier manufacturer like Foxcon? Their motherboards not well regarded in the PC world, so I doubt things are different with Apple. Mac do seem to have very high rates of logic board failure.



    This is, of course, nonsense.



    First, you're assuming that Foxconn is at fault here. Given the figures that have already been provided, the suicide rate is LOWER than the national average, so it's not clear why you're not offering Foxconn a medal.



    Furthermore, Apple is alone of US computer manufacturers who actually audits their suppliers for labor issues. When the last round of Apple-bashing came out, several suppliers indicated that only Apple even bothered to check - and the problems were found specifically due to Apple's investigations. So why are you blaming Apple?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AjitMD View Post


    Apple needs to move its manufacturing to the US and invest heavily in automation. There no justification to use economic slavery in the quest for profits. Especially for a company with $30-40B in cash. There are a lot of states in the US that do not have relatively low labor cost, and no state income taxes.



    Please name a state in the U.S. that has laborers who work for $1 per day. And please explain where Apple can inexpensively buy the level of automation that would be needed to build these devices - automation that would quickly become obsolete.



    Do you really believe that Apple hasn't looked at U.S. manufacturing options? It really amazes me how many people think that they know the situation well enough to tell Apple what to do.



    It's a societal problem. We've become so enamored of inexpensive products, that nothing else matters - the Walmartization of America. Then, to make matters worse, we never came down hard on China 15 years ago to force them to let their currency float. That is clearly one of the worse economic decisions we've EVER made in this country.
  • Reply 18 of 72
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,061member
    Their strategy of killing themselves until the union gets what it wants is failing miserably.
  • Reply 19 of 72
    walshbjwalshbj Posts: 864member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ...That incident came only days after Southern Weekend issued an undercover report, revealing that employees sign "voluntary overtime affidavits" to take home more than the $132 equivalent local minimum wage that can be earned through a regular 36-hour workweek. Workers at the plant reportedly said, "without overtime, you can hardly make a living."




    I have no idea what that paragraph means.
  • Reply 20 of 72
    jmmxjmmx Posts: 341member
    One of the problems is that this article ignores the overall suicide rate in China. With over 3000,000 employees in one city alone, there are bound to be a certain number of suicides each year. Whether working conditions have anything to do with this or not is a real question. However a responsible reporter would bring up this connection with the overall suicide rate.



    How many people who work for any American big company commit suicide in one year? So McDonalds has almost 500,000 employees and USA has rat of about 22 suicides per 100,000. So I imagine that McDonalds has about 100 employees commit suicide every year. But no one is writing about it.



    See:

    "Because the assertion of a "suicide cluster" is something that need not be accepted uncritically. Let's do the sad math. The rate of suicide in China is, according to the WHO, 13.0 per 100,000 for men, and 14.8 per 100,000 for women (China is one of the few countries where the female suicide rate exceeds the male one). Given 300,000 employees at Foxconn's massive Shenzhen facility, we should, therefore, expect somewhere between 39 and 43 suicides a year -- tragedies, but also the interplay of known suicide rates and a large company population."



    http://seekingalpha.com/article/2053...er-blame-apple
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