Foxconn's Working Conditions In China Under Scrutiny

The world's three major IT companies — Apple, HP and Dell — are reportedly respectively conducting investigations on the working conditions of Foxconn following the series of suicides happened in the Shenzhen factory of this Taiwan-based original electronics manufacturer.

Apple, as one of the main clients of Foxconn, which makes its iPads and iPods, disclosed that it has sent a team to evaluate the measures that Foxconn takes in preventing more tragic suicides from happening again. Apple said it will carry out more on-site inspections on the OEM periodically in the future.

HP said that it is looking into the working practices of Foxconn which may have some relationship with these tragedies. And Dell stated that it hopes that Foxconn will abide by the standards followed by Dell's affiliates and it said that it is trying various means to have the suppliers execute relevant standards.

There are currently more than 300,000 workers in Foxconn's Shenzhen factory. Since the beginning of this year, 12 people from the factory have attempted to kill themselves. So far, ten of them are dead and two others injured. The latest suicide at the factory took place in the night of May 26, just following Foxconn president Terry Kuo's visit to the factory where he made a promise to provide better working conditions and better payment to the employees.

As a result of the suicides, Foxconn, which is a supplier to a number of global IT companies including Apple, HP, Dell and Nokia, is obliged to make its working practice transparent instead of being confidential.

On May 25, Foxconn reportedly asked its employees to sign an anti-suicide agreement and promise that their families won't claim for any extra compensation except for what's prescribed by laws for any accidental incidents (including suicides). The agreement lasted for just one day before it was abolished on Wednesday, May 26, when Terry Kuo visited the Shenzhen factory. Kuo said that the agreement was cancelled as some of its wordings are not appropriate. According to Kuo, Foxconn is taking four measures, including building up a care network, setting up a friendship-building team, training mental tutors and offering psychological test to new employees to prevent possible suicides. However, Kuo stressed that the series of suicides had nothing to do with Foxconn's management.

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