A 23-year-old Foxconn worker, surnamed Xie, jumped to his death from an apartment building outside the factory on Wednesday. Reuters reports that his death is the first suicide since the company, which is the main supplier of Apple and makes products including the iPad and the iPhone, agreed to improve work conditions in March. Chengdu police are now investigating the incident.
Just last week, 1,000 workers at the Chengdu plant rioted in a dormitory for over two hours. The Taiwan-based company, which is one of China’s largest employers, has faced numerous allegations of workplace abuse since 2010, after about 13 workers died in apparent suicides. Three workers were killed and eighteen injured in an explosion at the Chengdu plant in May of 2011. Earlier this year, 300 people at a plant that makes Xbox consoles threatened to kill themselves over a pay dispute.
Foxconn has denied the accusations against it, while raising workers’ salaries. These increased by 70 percent at its China plants in 2010; in February of this year, Foxconn increased workers’ wages by 25 percent. In March, following an independent review by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) that found violations in wages and overtime at three Foxconn plants, the company agreed to hire tens of thousands more workers, in addition to the 1.2 million it already employs.
The company is also seeking to use a million robots, as noted in Chinese Business News (via Agence France-Presse). Currently, about 10,000 robots paint, weld and perform assembly tasks. Foxconn plants to use 300,000 robots by next year and then the full one million in 2014.
Some of the abuses endured by Foxconn workers include working an excessive amount of hours of overtime (60 hours a week in some cases); new regulations say that people cannot work more than 49 hours by July 1, 2013. Robots, of course, can work round the cock and as much and as long as their human operators wish. No surprise that Foxconn is seeking to employ more of the machines, now that it is being required not to treat its human workers as such.
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