Worker Death Tally Rises at Foxconn China

Another worker has committed suicide at factory dormitory in Guangdong, China.

July 21, 2010, 3:22 AM

BEIJING, July 21, 2010— -- An 18-year-old intern at Chimei Innolux Corp, an affiliate of Foxconn Technology Group, fell to his death from the sixth floor of a company dormitory in Guangdong Province, China, on Tuesday morning.

The incident happened after a string of worker suicides hit Foxconn's Chinese factories. This year, a total of 10 Foxconn workers died after jumping from company buildings. The last suicide occurred in May.

In a statement released late Tuesday, Chimei Innolux Corp. said the intern, a native of Hebei Province surnamed Liu, started working at the factory July 2 but suddenly stopped coming to work after July 5. The company annulled his contract two days later and told the worker to prepare to go back to his hometown.

According to the Xinhua news agency, the local government and police confirmed the death, which is still under investigation.

Hong Kong's Mingbao Newspaper reported that Chimei currently has 700 workers in its Guangdong factory. It had raised worker wages after the series of Foxconn suicide incidents in May. However, an increase in working hours, from eight to 10 hours a day, accompanied the wage increase.

"The factory has everything, but it has no entertainment," one Chimei employee told Mingbao Newspaper.

Labor activists have blamed Foxconn's military-style management system and tough working conditions for contributing to worker suicides. Experts have also pointed to the deaths as an example of a larger social problem for China. In June, a group of Chinese sociologists released an open letter in response to the Foxconn suicides, writing that the country should move on from a cheap-labor development model that sacrifices workers' "basic human dignity."

Foxconn Suicides

In statements to the media, company founder Terry Gou has countered accusations against Foxconn. Gou said that none of the suicides was directly work-related and that the Chinese authorities had cleared him of any wrongdoing in relation to the suicides. Foxconn also implemented a series of changes to help prevent future suicides, increasing wages by 70 percent, providing more mental health assistance to workers and upgrading dormitories.

Chimei and Foxconn are both owned by Taiwanese-based firm Hon Hai Precision Industry, which has about 800,000 employees in China and is one of the biggest private employers in the country. Hon Hai is also one of the largest electronics contract manufacturers in the world and makes high-tech devices for multinational companies such as Apple, Nokia and Dell.