Suicides and Poisonings at Apple’s Chinese Manufacturers Provoke Calls for Investigation

Suicides and Poisonings at Apple’s Chinese Manufacturers Provoke Calls for Investigation

Foxconn Technology, the world’s largest electronics contractor and main supplier of most of Apple’s componentys, is once again in the news over the welfare of its employees in China after it racked up its sixth employee suicide this year.

The most recent suicide occurred in Foxconn’s factory city in Shenzen, where one of their 300,000 workers leaped to her death from her rented apartment. This follows a suicide last week by a 24-year old male factory worker, who also jumped to his death from the top of a dormitory building.

“We regret to see the recurrence of such incidents,” Foxconn said in a statement.

Apple has had bad publicity due to the way Foxconn treats its workers before.

In 2006, Apple launched an internal investigation over the matter of Foxconn “iPod Cities in which hundreds of thousands of employees worked in extreme squalor for pennies a day, and ultimately rejected the claims of abuse, noting that most workers’ biggest complaint was that they couldn’t work more overtime.

Foxconn’s latest slate of worker suicides calls into question the veracity of that report, as does a strike of 2000 workers earlier this month at fellow Apple contractor Wintek over 47 cases of hexane poisonings at the company’s Suzhou factories.

Not only did a survey by a local agency in the case of the Wintek poisonings find that managers at Wintek repeatedly deceived investigators trying to figure out the cause of the poisonings, but that none of their interviewees had ever even heard of Apple’s contractor code of conduct, which is meant to be enforced at the factories of all of manufacturing partners to guarantee the well-being of employees.

In America, Apple is one of the best and most employee-conscious companies in tech, but consistent reports of worker abuse and unhappiness in China really does raise the question: is Apple having the wool pulled over its eyes by companies like Foxconn and Wintek over the well-being of the workers who make our MacBooks and iPads?

Possibly not, but at the very least, it seems like its time for another internal Apple investigation… and a statement reaffirming Apple’s interest in the emotional and physical wellness of their contracted workers overseas.

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About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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