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Worker from Foxconn, Apple's Chinese factory, jumps to death

June 14, 2012|By David Sarno
  • Safety nets line the bottom of dorms at Foxconn's Longhua campus in Shenzhen, China.
Safety nets line the bottom of dorms at Foxconn's Longhua campus in… (LiPo Ching / San Jose Mercury…)

A worker at China's Foxconn, the manufacturer that makes most of the world's Apple devices, jumped to his death Wednesday, the most recent in a string of suicides that have plagued the factory chain for years.

The employee leapt from the balcony of a company-rented building in the southwestern province of Sichuan, according to police reports noted by the Associated Press.

Foxconn's suicides have inflamed workers' rights advocates around the world, who have pointed to what they see as harsh working conditions at Foxconn's factories, which in addition to iPhones and iPads produce electronics for many of the largest international device makers.

Workers frequently have to stay on their feet for long hours performing highly repetitive assembly tasks. Many live in cramped dormitory quarters and often work seven days in a row. Though many workers prefer longer hours so they can make more money, a recent audit found that in most cases, employees were working more than 60 hours per week, violating both labor monitors' guidelines and Chinese labor laws.  Nearly two-thirds of Foxconn workers surveyed by the Fair Labor Assn. earlier this year said the wages they were being paid did not meet their basic needs.

Reports have also noted that factory employees can be exposed to dangerous environmental substances and equipment, and that workers are not adequately trained in safety measures. In a survey of half of 35,000 Foxcoon workers, more than half said they had witnessed or been involved in an accident.

In response to monitoring, Apple and Foxconn agreed in March to limit employee overtime and boost wages, but worker advocates say those measures aren't working.

In May, the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, said it had returned to Foxconn to evaluate reforms and found that troubling conditions remained.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suicide.

"If this tragic suicide doesn't wake Apple up to the fact that working conditions are still atrocious in its Chinese factories, then what will?" said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, director of SumOfUs.org, in a statement.

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