Foxconn plans safety nets, may raise pay after 12th suicide

Latest suicide came on the heels of pledge by HP, Dell and Apple to investigate problem

Foxconn Technology Group suffered its 12th suicide attempt so far this year late Wednesday night, on the heels of a media tour to the company's main factory in China and pledges by customers Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard to investigate the issue.

Foxconn, the trade name of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, has already put measures in place to prevent more suicides and is working on additional plans, such as installing nets on buildings designed to catch people attempting to jump, according to a company representative in Taipei, who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

So far, 12 Foxconn employees in China have attempted to commit suicide by leaping from tall buildings on the company's sprawling campuses, and 10 have succeeded.

Late Wednesday night, a 23-year old man surnamed Han leaped to his death from a building at Foxconn's Longhua factory complex in Shenzhen, China, according a statement from Shenzhen's Public Security Bureau. Longhua is a small city, and includes production lines, dormitories and cafeterias for workers, and sports and recreation facilities.

The suicides have become a hot topic globally because Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, makes goods for a number of high profile technology companies, including iPhones for Apple and PCs for Dell and HP.

But Foxconn argues that some of the reporting has been unfair. The company employs over 540,000 people in China and its suicide rate is far below the national average, which is 12 people per 100,000, according to China's Ministry of Health.

Still, the attention has put Foxconn executives in the spotlight and the company has responded with a number of initiatives to deal with the suicides. Earlier this year, the company called in Buddhist monks to provide spiritual counseling to people at its factories in China, as well as psychiatrists for counseling and to train workers who agreed to become peer counselors for fellow employees.

The company may also implement a 20 percent pay increase, an issue the Foxconn representative said was because business has been so good this year, not because of the suicide issue.

Foxconn also faces scrutiny because of the rising number of incidents at its factories globally, including a high-profile case in China last year in which a young engineer leaped to his death after a prototype fourth-generation iPhone went missing. More recently, Foxconn workers at a factory in Mexico set fire to an activities center after buses meant to take workers home after the night shift failed to show up.

Foxconn's official spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment and did not return calls or e-mails.

Apple said it was "saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn." A team from the company is "evaluating the steps they are taking to address these tragic events," it added in a statement.

The latest suicide at Foxconn came after the chairman of the company, Terry Gou, led a large group of journalists through the Longhua factory campus to give them a view of the facility and answer questions about the recent spate of suicides.

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
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