Inside China’s suicide factory Foxconn- “They are never able to relax their minds”
Posted by Author on May 28, 2010
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai, telegraph.co.uk, May 27, 2010 –
While Apple has risen to become the world’s largest technology firm, Foxconn, the maker of almost all of its devices, appears to have broken under the pressure of keeping up with new orders.
Two more workers attempted to commit suicide on Thursday by jumping from the top of dormitory buildings at its giant Longhua factory, according to sources at the site. Both survived and are currently hospitalised.
On Wednesday night, just hours after the chairman of Foxconn assured hundreds of reporters that the plant was under control, a 23-year-old man killed himself.
So far, at least 16 people have jumped from high buildings at the factory so far this year, with 12 deaths. A further 20 people were stopped by the company before they could attempt to kill themselves.
The hysteria at Longhua, where between 300,000 and 400,000 employees eat, work and sleep, has grown to such a pitch that workers have twisted Foxconn’s Chinese name so that it now sounds like: “Run to your Death”.
Terry Gou, the 59-year-old billionaire who founded the company, yesterday turned his plane around on the way to Taiwan to return to the plant. In a meeting with his senior management, Mr Gou allegedly said that he would not now leave the factory until the suicides stop.
In addition, the company is said to be considering a radical plan to move 60,000 people, or 20pc of its workforce at Longhua, to other sites in western China to be “closer to their homes” in the hope that this will calm the situation.
Inside the facility, workers were busily stringing nets between dormitory buildings to try to catch any further jumpers. “It is a clumsy solution, but it may save lives,” said Mr Gou. The company, which also makes dozens of electronic goods for the likes of Dell, Sony and HP, is also now blocking windows and locking doors to roofs and balconies.
An undercover team of seven Chinese investigators infiltrated the Longhua plant one week ago and told The Daily Telegraph that the trigger for the mass suicides is “inside the factory” rather than any personal or social impetus.
“The facilities at Foxconn are fine, but the management is poor,” revealed Zhu Guangbing, who organised the investigation. “Hundreds of people work in the workshops but they are not allowed to talk to each other. If you talk, you get a black mark in your record and you get shouted at by your manager. You can also be fined.”
He said Foxconn had lost tens of thousands of workers during the financial crisis and had been stretched to the breaking point by the volume of new orders, as products such as the iPad enjoyed monumental success.
“The machines keep moving and the staff have to keep up. The workers need practice to become really efficient, and with a heavy churn of new staff, they cannot adapt. In the past three months, the factory has been losing 50,000 staff a month because workers are burning out,” he said. “Even the engineers and the training staff have had to man the production line,” he added.
“Because Foxconn has had a large number of big orders, the workers are reduced to repeating exactly the same hand movement for months on end.
The workers we have spoken to say that their hands continue to twitch at night, or that when they are walking down the street they cannot help but mimic the motion. They are never able to relax their minds,” he said.
Overtime last year was an average of 120 hours per month per worker, bring their weekly hours up to 70 hours, above the maximum level set by Apple in its guidelines to suppliers. In the wake of the suicides, the company has now reduced the time to 80 hours per month, and is now considering raising its basic wage of 900 yuan (£90) a month by between 50pc and 100pc.
Longhua lies 30 minutes from the southern city of Shenzhen and is ringed with heavy security. Its sheer size is intimidating. “I once went to the west gate rather than the south gate,” said one contractor. “I had to drive around to the right entrance and it took half-an-hour”.
Inside, workers get free meals and accommodation in giant tower blocks. There is a complimentary bus and free laundry. Touch-screen computers around the campus allow each worker to check his current status – how much he has earned that month and how many hours he has worked.
There are free swimming pools, and tennis courts and 500 LED screens beam out exercise programmes across the site, as well as bulletins from Foxconn TV. Clubs organised by the company offer chess, calligraphy, mountain climbing or fishing.
Foxconn says that 8,000 people a day apply for jobs at its factory, drawn by the company’s blue-chip reputation, its prompt payment of wages and benefits and its training programme.
However, workers complained that they simply did not have the time to enjoy the facilities on offer. “The workers we spoke to said they never used the swimming pools, and anyway there are only two among the 300,000 workers, and they are said to be quite dirty,” said Mr Zhu.
Lin Fengxiang, a 23-year-old villager from Maoming, Guangdong, said: “I know why all those people jumped. In here, nobody gives a damn about you. Too bad I’ve already got one foot on this boat. It’s hard to get off now.”
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This entry was posted on May 28, 2010 at 9:37 pm and is filed under Business, China, Company, Guangdong, Law, News, People, SE China, Shenzhen, Social, Worker, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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