A 21-year-old employee of technology giant Foxconn Technology Group (富士康) jumped to his death in southern China, reports said yesterday, the latest in a string of deaths involving its workers.
Foxconn, known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) in Taiwan, is the world’s largest maker of computer components and assembles products for Apple, including the iPhone, Sony and Nokia. The company is in the spotlight after suicides and labor unrest at its massive Chinese plants.
At least 13 employees died in apparent suicides last year, which activists blamed on tough working conditions and led to calls for better treatment of staff.
The latest death was of a man who only started work at the company’s sprawling plant in Shenzhen on June 27. He died on Tuesday, according to the Hong Kong Economic Times, which quoted a Foxconn official.
Police are investigating the fatal incident, the report said.
The company, meanwhile, has tried to contain the damage from the suspected suicide attempt by contending that the employee’s fall was not a result of work pressure.
Foxconn vice president Terry Cheng (程天縱) attributed the death to a possible accident, saying that the employee had only worked two hours of overtime since he joined the company.
“Based on my preliminary understanding, the employee was not a member of staff on the production line, but he worked in our research department,” Cheng told reporters in Taipei on Tuesday. “The employee was still on a training program and he had worked overtime for only two hours during the past 20 days, so we think that work pressure is irrelevant.”
He said that “prior to the accident, the employee had dined with 20 to 30 colleagues and they were likely drunk.”
Suicides have brought to light the high-pressure conditions in Hon Hai’s Chinese factories and they have tarnished the company’s reputation — forcing it to reconsider its management policies and increase wages substantially.
The company employs about 1 million people in China, about half of them based at its main facility in the southern industrial boomtown of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
The firm in March reported a net loss of US$218.3 million last year on revenue of US$6.63 billion — about 8 percent lower than in 2009 — adding to mounting woes at the Taipei-based firm over the past few years.