Another suicide at Apple’s key supplier in China

The latest suicide of a worker at Apple Computer’s Foxconn supplier plant in Chengdu, China may be another indication that Apple has not appreciably improved conditions for its manufacturing workers. Apple and Foxconn, working with the Fair Labor Association, announced that they would make changes in grueling overtime work schedules and in working conditions, including a promise to gradually come into compliance with China’s overtime laws. Yet this suicide, in conjunction with recent worker protests and new reports, suggests that needed reforms have not been made.

There are mixed reports from SACOM and China Labor Watch about whether work schedules have been reduced in any systematic way at Foxconn. Problematically, it appears that when the schedules are reduced, the reductions are not adequately balanced with hourly pay increases. So the already-inadequate monthly pay drops, leaving workers—72 percent of whom at the Chengdu plant told the FLA they could not meet their basic needs—in a desperate situation.

Ultimately, Apple has the power and moral responsibility to improve wages and conditions for Foxconn workers in Chengdu and elsewhere. Certainly, Apple and its executives can afford to do the right thing.

  • benleet

    56 hours a week was the median worked by employees at Foxconn according to the Apple sponsored survey of employees which accompanied Eisenberry’s earlier article. The graph at the last essay, memorable.

  • Fred

    The two signal phrases in the first paragraph are “…suicide…may be…” and “…suicide…suggests….”
    Such phraseology is the language of propaganda.

    • Unless you are there, on the ground, it’s appropriate to leave a little doubt. But a suicide is an unnecessary (and more than likely avoidable) waste of a life, and whether or not you interpret the report as ‘propaganda’ is irrelevant.

  • Ryan

    Why ignore the fact that the suicide rate at Foxconn is far below the national average? In a community of almost a million employees, there are bound to be people who handle stress in extreme ways. You cannot assume this stress is imposed by Foxconn employment conditions.

    Further, the already low Foxconn suicide rate has dropped dramatically since 2010. 17 by the end of June 2010, 2 by the end of June 2011, and now 1 by the end of June 2012. Running with your weak assumption that Foxconn was at fault for the suicides, looks like they have turned this around considerably…