June 2010’s loser of the month: Foxconn

logo_foxconn-150x21The Taiwanese Foxconn, the largest electronics manufacturer in the world and producer of Apple’s iPods and iPhones, among other things, has put its wages up twice in June by considerable amounts. Foxconn has announced a decision to more than double its wages (from 237 euro per month) and implement a bonus system of 66 per cent for hard working employees. These changes have been sparked by the ten employees who committed suicide in the past five months as a result of their work on the conveyor belts and the two additional attempted suicides.

These employees were all between the ages of 18 and 24 and were driven to suicide through desperation resulting from the awful working conditions. The suicides all took place in Foxconn City, a state-owned factory in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, where approximately three hundred thousand people live and work. According to Foxconn’s CEO, his company is not a sweatshop and it complies with all local regulations. However, lobbyists claim the work is extremely monotonous, and that the supervisors act like military drill sergeants. There is little social contact and no one really knows anyone in the anonymous dormitories because of the high rate of staff turnover.

When compared to France Telecom, the number of suicides at Foxconn is less shocking. Of the one hundred thousand people working for France Telecom, 46 have committed suicide, 11 of them in the past six months alone.

Chinese employees have not made such a commotion about these incidents at Foxconn in the same way as the western world has. In fact there are still thousands of young Chinese people queuing outside the company’s doors whilst Foxconn has put its job vacancies on hold. Perhaps the Chinese attitude has something to do with the fact that the families of the victims received a pay off that amounts to ten years’ salary; an arrangement that has recently been abolished.

In response to all the commotion, Foxconn has announced that it will be moving part of its production from the Chinese factories to Taiwan and Vietnam. This will put tens of thousands of jobs at risk in China.