300 Foxconn Workers In China Reportedly Threaten Suicide Seeking More Pay

Foxconn XBox 360 workers threaten suicide pay increaseWorking in China's burgeoning manufacturing sector is proving exceedingly tough for many Chinese workers. Long hours and intense pressure to quickly churn out the latest high-tech gizmos destined for overseas markets have led to protests and even suicides among some workers, according to media reports.

Though some reports have captured scant attention in the West, the purported threat last week of a mass suicide by scores of workers at a plant in Wuhan that produces Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 game console are once again focusing attention on working conditions at the Chinese plants.

About 300 workers are said to have threatened to throw themselves off the roof of the building after their demands for increased pay were denied.

The threats were in reaction to a Jan. 2 ultimatum issued by Foxconn, telling the employees that they could either quit their positions and take a severance or keep their jobs and receive no additional payment, according to a report posted at Taiwan's WantChinaTimes.

According to the account, most employees opted to quit with pay, but the company reneged on the offer and no payments were issued; employees returned the next day in an uproar and staged a protest on the plant's roof. Wuhan's mayor is said to have eventually intervened and talked the workers out of their suicide plan.

Photos of the protest have been circulated by Chinese media and on social networking sites, PC World reports, showing a large crowd of workers gathered on the building's rooftop, with fire trucks parked below,

In 2010, 14 workers reportedly committed suicide at Foxconn plants in China, and the Taiwan-based company has since been under increased scrutiny. In addition to long working hours and low pay, workers also are said to have complained about discrimination.

For its part, Microsoft said in a statement that it "takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue."

In an effort to stem the suicides, Foxconn has forced employees to sign a pledge not to take their own lives and installed nets outside factory dormitories to deter potential jumpers, PCMag.com reports.

Working conditions and employee treatment in China's factories recently were the focus of a story on "This American Life." The report examined whether Foxconn and other Chinese companies live up to the social responsibility standards that Western companies such as Microsoft and Apple require of manufacturing partners overseas.

Reports cited in the radio program say workers in a Foxconn factory that produces the popular Apple iPad electronic tablet "frequently endure excessive and forced overtime in order to gain a higher wage" and may "have to skip dinner or work on unpaid overtime shifts."

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Reading about this article about the factory workers of this "Foxconn" company and how they're threatening to commit suicide because of current working conditions and pay is sad to hear, but also a bit ironic at the same time. I'm not saying that to be mean either. Back in late 2003 when I was doing temporary work as a material handler at the 'Hewlett-Packard' computer warehouse, we only had the employees of HP and the temporary workers from different agencies working there. During this time, July-August 2003, this Chinese company, "Foxconn" had joined forces with the Hewlett-Packard warehouse that I worked at. They 'imported' their workers to handle certain tasks within the warehouse assembling other parts of the computer systems that were manufactured there. From what I could observe, these workers were treated decently.

Shortly after this company came in and appeared to take over quite a bit of the job functions that the actual HP employees and the temporary workers had already been doing; the area that I was working in took a big hit in production time and product being pulled for final assembly in the computer systems. Where we previously had at least 5-6 orders that consisted of 350-375 units to pull small parts for within an 8-hour time frame [including 1 hour for lunch] ~~ we were reduced to 3-4 orders that consisted of maybe 150-175 units to pull parts for. We'd try to stretch out the time as much as we could when that happened, because it rarely lasted 8 hours. Not to mention the morale of the employees had started to deteriorate as well! I worked the "graveyard" shift [12m-7am] and when the 'Foxconn' people came on board, we had nothing to do for at least the first 2 1/2 hours of every shift every night! When I first started working there, I worked my full 8 hours and occasionally some overtime; when July-August 2003 came around all that changed. Since I wasn't able to get my full 8-hours every night, I was forced to start looking for a job that could guarantee an 8 hour day. I really liked that job, but I couldn't afford to be going home early every night after only working 4-6 hours on my shift. After I had found another job and had heard from other people that were full-time HP employees, the warehouse had started to rapidly go downhill. From what I understand, I think that HP warehouse location had closed down several years ago. I assume that the "Foxconn" factory workers were sent back to China.

April 06 2012 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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