Saturday, May 29, 2010

Suicides at Apple, Dell Suppliers in China

Apple, Dell and H-P are facing a potential public relations nightmare following at least 10 suicide deaths and another 20 suicide attempts by employees of Foxconn Technology Group.

The giant Chinese manufacturer of Apple I-Pads and Dell’s new Streak tablet employs an estimated 400,000 workers, or more, and most live in dormitories on company property. That’s roughly the population of Miami, Florida.

And, according to the World Health Organization, China’s national suicide rate is 13 to 15 per 100,000 population, so that is not an unusual rate, except the number of deaths has been in such a short period of time and in one work-place.

While media attention and bloggers have been talking about the rising number of suicides at the Foxconn plants, customers like Apple and Dell and HP are facing growing criticism for their support of “sweat shops” in pursuit of higher profits.

The American companies have been telling anyone who will listen that they have standards for their suppliers to follow and Apple and Dell say they are conducting their own investigations.

After several days of continuing coverage, Apple finally issued a statement May 26, saying the company was “saddened and upset” by the suicides.

Because Foxxcon is so big and companies like Dell and Apple have put so many of their apples in that one basket, no pun intended, the American companies have few choices except to put the best face on the situation and try their best to influence their suppliers to treat their employees humanely.

Meanwhile, Foxxcon has begun installing safety nets around their employee dormitories, where most of the suicides resulted from workers jumping from the roofs of seven story buildings.

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