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The Chinese government thinks that Foxconn's employee union is one key towards improving working conditions at the company's plants. The government has demanded action from the company after a string of suicides at the company's Apple plant in Shenzhen.  (Source: Indy Media)
Foxconn's owners are facing their most serious criticism yet

Foxconn's Taiwanese owner Hon Hai has tried everything to curb the suicides at its Chinese Shenzhen plant -- anger rooms where employees can beat away their stress, soothing Buddhist music on the assembly line, counseling from monks, and, most recently, requiring employees to sign contract letters promising not to kill themselves (the letter has since been retracted).  However, none of those steps seems to have worked yet at stopping the suicides at the plant which manufactures most of the world's iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

On Saturday the top Communist Party official of Guangdong, Wang Yang demanded Foxconn clean up its act, arguing that improved unions could help the situation.  Yang, provincial party secretary, comments, "[The government and Hon Hai must] work together and take effective measures to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.  Labor unions in private firms should be improved to facilitate better working conditions and more harmonious relations between workers and employers."

Thus far 10 employees have taken their lives at the Shenzhen plant, which houses between 330,000 and 400,000 people.  Three others were seriously injured in suicide attempts.  Compared to the average suicide rate in China, this would seem rather normal.  However, workers in factories typically have a much lower suicide rate than the national average.  And the number of males committing suicides is unusual.  Rural females alone account for half of China's suicides in recent statistics, while urban females account for a portion of the remaining suicides.

Foxconn reportedly has been making employees work long overtime, sometimes unpaid.  Even as it made record profits, it also failed to give employees a promised raise in recent months, as well (entry level employees currently make around $132 a month).  There's even reports of company security details beating and harassing workers.

At this point Foxconn has at least committed to at last giving its employees their promised raise.  It has not said when it will implement the raise, but says "it should be very soon."  Particular raises are at the discretion of local management.  Company officials explain, "It would be an average 20% increase, which means some areas will be more than 20%."  

Meanwhile a probe into the company by Apple, HP, Dell, Sony, Nokia, and Nintendo continues.  Between scrutiny from its corporate partners and the Chinese government, pressure is building for Hon Hai to step in and improve its working conditions (better pay, shorter hours), even if that means cutting into its annual profit of NT$75.69B ($2.35B USD).





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