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On Friday explosions ripped through Foxconn's iPad 2 factory in Chengdu, the capital city of China's southwestern Sichuan province.  (Source: AP Photo (top)/Reuters (bottom))

Three workers have died and nine others remain hospitalized in serious to critical condition.  (Source: China News)
Early reports indicate disaster at Chinese supplier was due to poor maintenance -- dust buildup

While the weekend came and went without the realization of doomsday, last Friday likely seemed like hell on Earth for workers at Foxconn Electronics Inc.'s Chengdu plant.  

On Friday explosions ripped through the plant, which has been labeled as one of the key assembly locations for Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad 2.  Early reports indicate the explosions were triggered by a buildup in flammable dust over the polishing workshop of the plant.

As of Sunday, three employees died and fifteen others were hospitalized.  Of the hospitalized employees six have been released, but nine remain in the hospital, several of which are in critical condition.

The move is the latest setback for the troubled Taiwan-owned gadget manufacturer.  Foxconn is a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd. (2317).  Foxconn draws its labor primarily from the vast population of mainland China.  It is China's largest exporter and counts companies like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Sony Corp. (6758), Nintendo Co., Ltd. (7974), Dell Inc. (DELL), and Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ) as clients.

But its biggest client is Apple, who has relied heavily on it to produce its Mac computers and popular i-device lineup.

Pressured by Apple to deliver better products at higher quantities and lower prices, Foxconn turned up the heat on its employees last year.  As a result the company saw multiple suicides, with employees complaining of "hellish" working conditions.  

The suicides shocked China; while suicide rates in mainland China are generally quite high, they are unusual among young working age males, particularly those who have factory jobs.  The majority of the victims were indeed young males.  

Foxconn responded with a variety of tactics -- contracts demanding employees not kill themselves, anti-suicide nets, investigation into replacing employees with robots, and pay raises to raise worker morale.  The company claims employees are lying about poor working conditions.

Apple has been pressured about the suicides, but remains defiant to the suggestion that it somehow was to blame.  In its annual labor audit, Apple praised Foxconn for working to improve worker conditions in the wake of the suicides.

The gadget maker refused to comment on its supplier's latest crisis.

Chengdu is the capital of China's southwester Sichuan province [Google Maps].



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Regardless of what people are saying...
By silverblue on 5/23/2011 3:17:34 PM , Rating: 2
...my thoughts are more with the three deceased workers and their families than whose electronic gizmos they were working on.




By Pessimism on 5/24/2011 10:27:07 AM , Rating: 2
That is why you will never lead a multimillion dollar corporation.


"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad














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