In response to ever-increasing worker suicides, Hon Hai Group, the owner of Foxconn, a technology and electronics manufacturing supplier to the giants of technology including Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Dell and others, announced plans to raise wages of its workers 20 percent, according to Reuters. There have been 11 suicide attempts in 2010 at one facility and several other attempts.
The Foxconn factory is located in the Shenzen province of Southern China and employs about 420,000 workers in this facility. Earlier this week, a worker ended his life by jumping off the factory building, and another worker who tried to slit his wrists survived.
"It may help the suicide situation because we workers just need money, and the financial pressure on us is great," said a Foxconn employee surnamed Wang, as told to Reuters.
"Every little bit helps."
Questions about U.S.-, Japanese- and European-based technology company awareness of labor conditions have been raised amid the backlash of these worker deaths by labor watch groups across the world. Apple, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Sony, Nokia and others are facing criticism for using manufacturing suppliers where conditions and pay would cause workers to take their own lives.
Workers in Chinese factories are dominated by work and the pressure to produce high-quality products in rapid frequency with military-style precision, according to labor watch groups like the Pittsburgh-based National Labor Committee, which follows factory workers' plights in China and throughout the world.
"Twelve-hour shifts are common in tech and other factories, with the workers usually getting one day off a week, on Sunday," Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee, told eWEEK. "OT is routinely obligatory, and even if in some few cases it is not mandatory, the workers feel compelled to put in the extra hours, since that is the only way they can survive. No one could even come close to surviving on the legal minimum wage-and here we are talking about living in primitive company dorms and eating hardly edible institutional cafeteria food.
The young workers-and the vast majority of the workers are young-have a very hard life. They really have no time to grow and develop," Kernaghan said. "They don't have time to read or study, or to have personal experiences to develop their emotions. All they do is work and sleep. These young workers are just an appendage to the machines they work on. Each day is a combination of deadly monotony and an exhausting race to meet the excessive production goals."
Reuters has also reported Hon Hai Group sent a letter to employees this week trying to limit damages to injuries outside the workplace, which has been met with much consternation among workers and labor groups. From Reuters:
Hon Hai Group has not said when it plans to implement the wage increases.