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Suicide-Hit Foxconn Hikes Wages by 66 Percent

An electronics company hit by a string of suicides has raised wages in China for the third time in 10 days, as it seeks to appease unhappy workers and quell a public relations storm.

The Taiwanese high-tech company Foxconn said Monday it would hike wages for a third time in less than two weeks at its plants in southern China.

The hikes come after a string suicides led to global condemnation of the working conditions for its staff.

Foxconn - which assembles products for U.S.-based Apple - will increase the monthly salary for its assembly line workers in Shenzhen by nearly 70 percent, to $290.

But the wage increases come with strict conditions, including a lengthy probation period on lower pay.

Jeffery Crothall of the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin pressure group, says the IT giant is "missing the point" after 10 staff committed suicide since the start of the year.

"Put bluntly, Foxconn still doesn't get it. One thing I would ask Foxconn is why, given that there has been so many suicides at this point, are you introducing a pay rise that is going to put more pressure on workers," he asked.

New Foxconn hires have to complete the three-month probation period, during which they are paid three-fifths of the new wage.

Crothall claims this breaks the country's confusing and rarely enforced labor law, which state 80 percent of pay must be given to new staff during their review period.

The troubled company's shares fell sharply on the Taiwan stock market, following the announcement of the pay raises.

And, it suspended trading on the Hong Kong Exchange Monday without citing a reason.

Some observers say the wage increase could trigger industry-wide pay increases.

Crothall says Chinese workers are becoming more assertive, as China's economy recovers from last year's slump, caused by the global financial crisis.