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Foxconn CEO Guo Tai-ming insists his company isn't running sweatshops. His company makes the majority of Apple's products, as well as a variety of PC and gaming console motherboards. There have been nine suspected suicide deaths at his company's plants thus far this year.  (Source: CCTV)
Foxconn brings more Buddhist monks to release souls of dead Apple plant workers from purgatory

A ninth Foxconn worker fell to his death today just three days after the last fall.  That brings the total to 11 falls at the Shenzen plant, which primarily manufactures Apple's iPads, iPhones, and iPods (other Foxconn locations manufacture motherboards for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft game consoles and for personal computers).

The deceased was a 19-year-old male.  The fall occurred around 6:30 a.m., about the same time another young male fell to his death last Friday.

Last year, Foxconn's plant workers had a suicide rate far below the average for rural China, which has one of the world's highest suicide rates.  Last year, the company only had three suicides -- and one of those three was a suspected murder (of an employee who lost an iPhone prototype) that was eventually deemed "conclusively" to be a suicide.

However, this year, a string of employees have been losing their lives in apparent suicides, falling off high windows and balconies in the Shenzhen factory town.  Shenzhen holds anywhere from 330,000 to 420,000 employees.

There's some question over whether the employees are not committing suicide, but rather falling to their deaths from sheer exhaustion.  The company has reportedly been forcing employees to work long hours of overtime -- often unpaid -- to satisfy demand for the iPhone.  The employees spend most of the day standing and reportedly can barely stand by the day's end.

Yet another question is whether Foxconn's policy of security harassment of employees had any role in the deaths.  Apple demands unparalleled security for its production facility and Foxconn has responded by recruiting a reportedly thuggish and brutal security detail. 

A video recently leaked of guards at another Foxconn plant pushing employees and pulling one employee aside and roughing him up.  Shenzhen's security staff beat up one reporter who was trying to interview employees.

Foxconn's CEO Guo Tai-ming finally addressed the suicides, speaking to Chinese reporters today.  In the short interview he said that his company was struggling to deal with the 800,000+ employees it currently has spread out across a couple of massive factory complexes.

He refuted claims that the Shenzhen factory was a "sweatshop".  In the interview he stated:

We are definitely not a ‘Sweatshop’ manufacturer. There are about 800,000 employees in China’s Foxconn, it is difficult for us to handle such a huge production team. We have (the) confidence to stabilize the whole situation.

Many of the management issues, we must only (take action) instead of talking about it, but we have always done well on (that). The press media always loves to report Foxconn’s issues, if there are really problem behind the company, it already (have fallen apart), it will not wait until now. At the moment, a lot of things cannot be said. We are quietly doing (what we can to solve the case).

Foxconn will now be playing Buddhist music on its assembly lines to try to soothe malcontent workers.  It also is reportedly bringing in the Master of Buddhist Association of China to help counsel workers and release the souls of the dead workers from purgatory.

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RE: Rotten Apples
By Iaiken on 5/25/2010 3:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
The other problem with this entire outlook is that the main reason for child labour laws is to enforce the primacy of education.

This is where pushing our values on China becomes a slippery slope as many of these child labourers would not have received an education regardless and so the entire primacy argument is moot. It then devolves into an argument of "You're too young to work so you're just going to have to do nothing."

Once upon a time in America, people as young as 14 worked the coal mines. Later the minimum age became 16 and now 18.

In Canada, I worked picking fruit in the summer as a student from age 14 to 16. I worked summers at the same steel fabricator as my dad from 17-18. Both kept me in great shape and taught me a lot about myself, like the fact that I wanted to do well in school so that I didn't HAVE to work in a factory. This was all fully complicit to the labor laws of Ontario at the time because I was not a full-time employee.

The point is, out of a massive workforce of 400,000+ employees, only a handful were determined to be below the legal age (and even then only barely). When I compare that to shaping, welding and cutting tons of steel for 50 hours a week in 100+ degree heat, manufacturing iPods is a cake walk.

Once you bring in the argument of circumstance, it pushing things even further into those grey areas. What if these 15 year olds only option was to get a job to support themselves or starve? People DO still starve to death all the time in rural China and unless you have land with which to become a farmer there are few other options due to lack of education.

RE: Rotten Apples
By grenableu on 5/25/2010 3:42:03 PM , Rating: 2
so the entire primacy argument is moot. It then devolves into an argument of "You're too young to work so you're just going to have to do nothing."
It's a good point, but they won't be doing nothing, they'll be working in the rice fields instead, or gathering bird nests, or working on tiny dangerous fishing boats, or any of the other jobs most poor chinese kids start by age 14.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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