Apple production partner Foxconn has been tied to worker suicides in the past, but a new wrinkle emerged earlier this month. According to reports, a group of 300 Chinese employees building Xbox 360 game consoles threatened suicide by jumping off the roof of a factory.
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To those of you who scoffed at Steve Wozniak when he said that machines will one day take over as superior beings, leaving us humans as the “dogs of the house,” take note: It seems Woz’ vision is very much becoming a reality for some Foxconn workers, who are set to be replaced by robots over the next three years.
Foxconn’s public relations issues have just collided. A week after an explosion rocked Foxconn’s iPad 2 production facility in Chengdu, China, an employee of that facility has committed suicide.
Working conditions at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, have long been the center of attention. 1 million Chinese workers build electronics for Apple, HP, Nokia, Palm and Sony at the plant, some are reportedly as young as 12; having to endure long, repetitive work under notoriously harsh conditions. At last count, at least 14 Foxconn workers have committed suicide in the last 16 months.
The plant is now ordering its employees to sign an ‘anti-suicide pledge’, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail. Under the pledge, employees must not attempt to kill themselves, and if they do, their families can only seek the minimum in damages.
Foxconn Engineer Kills Herself After Being Insulted By Manager, Sent By Foxconn To Psychiatric Hospital
It may be the New Year, but sadly, it appears that the mere turning-over of the calendar isn’t enough to put a stop to the slate of Foxconn suicides: last Friday, a female engineer leaped from her brother’s 10th floor flat to her death after being insulted by a superior, ordered to quit, then sent to a psychiatric hospital on Foxconn’s orders.
The suicide is the fifteenth so far, although the first Foxconn suicide in 2011.
The engineer, Wang Ling, was 25 years old, and had worked as an engineer at Foxconn’s massive and troubled Shenzhen facility since 2005. Foxconn is Apple’s largest manufacturing partner, and the Shenzhen facility is often referred to as “iPhone City” in the press.
According to Wang Ling’s brother, her suicidal leap was prompted by the receipt of an email from a Taiwanese superior, asking her to resign.
When Wang Ling asked why she was being asked to quit, she was verbally berated with insults by the same superior.
The insults appear to have pushed Wang Ling over the edge: later that day, she was sent to the Shenzhen Kangning psychiatric hospital by Foxconn, who diagnosed her as a schizophrenic and sent her home to her family.
“Wang Ling is exhibiting a lot of abnormal behavior,” Foxconn’s line manager wrote to Wang Ling’s brother. They promised to keep his sister’s position open for three months, if she recovered.
A day later, Wang Ling had jumped to her death. She left no note. Her family wants answers.
“We want to find out why my sister, who was a healthy and happy university graduate, committed suicide,” said Wang Ling’s sister-in-law.
It’s a good question. Why was a five-year employee of Foxconn’s Shenzhen factory with no obvious history of mental disturbances suddenly ordered to resign, insulted then sent to a local schizophrenia ward by her superiors? Was she becoming unhinged in the workplace, and did her superior’s harsh comments push her over the edge, or did Wang Ling kill herself because of the Chinese stigma of being declared (perhaps unjustly) mentally ill?
Whatever the truth, Foxconn’s reps seem to be disavowing all knowledge of the suicide. “We have no report of the involvement of any Foxconn employee in any such tragic incident,” their official PR mouthpiece told the South China Morning Post.
[via MIC Gadget]