Foxconn reports three possible suicides at factories in China

Two of the deaths occured at the Foxconn campus in Zhengzhou

Three workers at Foxconn factories in China have fallen to their deaths in recent weeks and police are investigating, according to the company.

On April 27 and May 14, two workers employed at the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, China, separately fell to their deaths, according to the Taiwanese manufacturing giant. On May 11, another worker from Foxconn's Chongqing facility was also found dead. A video posted online purportedly showed the worker falling down from a building.

Police are investigating the incidents. But Foxconn said the two deaths in Zhengzhou were unrelated to work matters, according to a company internal review.

"Suicide is a complex issue," the company said in statement, "there is no one reason that can ever be cited for any such incident."

New York-based China Labor Watch also reported that a fourth worker had jumped to his death on April 24 near the company's Zhengzhou campus. Foxconn, however, said the employee was in fact a 24-year-old man who had only applied for a job with Foxconn, but never worked at the factory.

The deaths come after the U.S.-based Fair Labor Association released a new audit report, pointing to steady improvements made to the working conditions at Foxconn factories in China. The report, however, only monitored the conditions at three separate facilities located in the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Chengdu.

Foxconn employs over 1.2 million employees in China and builds products for Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and many other high-profile tech vendors. But in 2010, a string of worker suicides at the company's facilities sparked criticism of Foxconn's labor practices.

Local authorities in Zhengzhou could not be reached for comment Monday. But a Foxconn worker in Zhengzhou blamed the apparent suicides on the work environment.

"I think it was the pressure from the job and also some personal problems that caused it," said the worker, who wished to go unnamed. "We work in a closed environment and people can't vent their issues. So instead, workers go jump down from buildings and die."

The factory had originally imposed a "silence mode" on the factory floor, barring workers from discussing non-work related matters on the job. But the company quickly lifted the work policy after the media reported the ban on talking, the worker said.

Foxconn, however, has defended the measure as necessary for safety. "We encourage employees to minimize discussions that are non-work-related and to ensure that they do not disturb their fellow workers especially when operating machinery," the company said Monday.

The Taiwanese manufacturing giant is also taking steps to cut down worker's overtime as a way to improve working conditions. Foxconn wants to limit the work week to 49 hours by July.

The new policies, however, may be causing more stress on Foxconn's work force in Zhengzhou.

"Cutting down overtime doesn't mean the work load is any less," the worker said. "In the past, we worked 10 hours. But now we have to finish the same amount of work in eight."

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Michael Kan

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