Nokia and Sony yesterday joined a chorus of concern over labor conditions at Foxconn Technology Group’s (富士康) vast assembly plant in Shenzhen, China, after yet another attempted suicide by a worker who slashed his wrists.
The companies said they were looking into conditions at the factory, following similar pledges by Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
In an apparent effort to confront a growing tide of bad publicity over the suicides, Foxconn yesterday announced a 20 percent rise in salaries at its China plants.
The vow came after another employee survived a suicide bid on Thursday at the vast plant, where 10 have died recently in apparent suicides. An 11th worker died at a Foxconn factory in northern China.
“We are concerned and take this very seriously,” Nokia said in a statement, adding: “Given the concerning reports regarding Foxconn, we are in continuous contact with Foxconn to ensure any issues are identified and addressed as soon as possible.”
The suicides at Foxconn have highlighted concerns over working conditions for the millions of factory laborers who power China’s export-reliant economy.
Sony said it requires suppliers to adhere to a code of conduct and would investigate conditions at Foxconn, which is owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry (鴻海精密).
“In response to recent reports, Sony has begun taking steps to re-evaluate the working environment at Foxconn,” it said in a statement.
Activists and employees have said the workers at Foxconn’s Shenzhen plant face long hours, low pay and heavy pressure.
Dozens of activists protested yesterday outside Hon Hai’s Taipei headquarters, urging it to improve treatment of its workers while unfurling white banners and laying flowers to mourn the dead.
“We urge Hon Hai to respect life and to stop its inhuman and militarised treatment of workers aimed at maximizing profits,” organizer Lin Tzu-wen (林子文) said.
“The workers have to stand all day and they are not allowed to talk. They are treated almost like machines in a sweatshop environment,” he said.
A Foxconn official confirmed media reports that the company was set to raise the salary of its assembly line staff, but stressed that the plan was not conceived in response to the suicides.
Company spokesman Edmund Ding (丁祈安) said the rise in the cash portion of salary packages for all its Chinese workers had been planned for some time. He did not say when the raises would be implemented.
Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) was quoted on Thursday by Taiwanese media as saying Foxconn plans to relocate some facilities and about a fifth of the Shenzhen workforce to western regions of China where many of its workers come from.
Meanwhile, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said he wished everyone could give Guo more encouragement because he works under a lot of pressure.
Wu said Guo and his enterprises contributed a lot to Taiwan’s economy and the world’s, and that he was a man of ambition and competent at business innovation.
“A spate of suicides by employees jumping off buildings in a company drew lots of attention. I wish everyone would encourage Guo more, to help him solve problems,” Wu said.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also voiced support for Gou, and urged the government to help him.
“I think his problems are the country’s problems,” Wang told reporters. “Our government can contact relevant units [in China] to help deal with the situation. It’s the least the government can do.”