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Chinese Factory Foxconn Combats Worker Suicides

  • Les Carpenter

Taiwan electronics giant Foxconn Technology, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, held morale boosting rallies at its Chinese factories Wednesday. It was the company's latest response to a wave of employee suicides. The company invited reporters to the rally at its 400,000 employee facility in Shenzhen.

Foxconn says the goal of the rallies is to send a message to employees that they are not alone. That's why they called the festivities the "Treasure your life" rally's at which mostly young workers shouted slogans and waved pompoms.

Geoffrey Crothall, China Labour Bulletin spokesperson said that Foxconn, a usually secretive company, invited reporters in as a response to the news stories about the suicides, 11 of them this year. He says the company is trying to improve its public image and "this seems to be the way they know how to do it." But, he adds, what the company really needs to do is "treat it's workers like decent human beings and pay them a decent wage". Crothall sya besides a little theater, the rallies won't accomplish much.

Most of the suicides were at the Shenzhen facility where Apple iPhones and products for other major companies such as Dell and Sony are assembled. with so many deaths and compalints about pay and treatment of employees, Foxconn raised worker wsalaries by 66 percent, hired training counselers and attached attach safety nets to buildings to deter future suicide attempts.

Now, as Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo says, the company is moving some of those 400,000 employees to other locations as part of a downsizing in Shenzhen and opening new plants elsewhere. Woo says his company understands that "the Shenzhen government wants to transform the city from a manufacturing center to a more research and development center. So, he says, Foxconn and the city of Shenzhen will be working toward that end.

Foxconn is building new plants in the inland provinces of Henan and Sichuan where salaries, presumably lower than Shenzhen, will still be above average for the two heavily populated inland provinces. That puts Foxconn in league with a number of other manufacturing companies in China, moving away from the coastal regions because of the growing demands by employees for higher wages.