xbox 360
Foxconn manufactures iPhones, XBoxes and other technology products. Image: Flickr / jamiemc / CC-BY-ND

Foxconn Technology Group in China is once again in the forefront of the news for worker treatment. On the heels of several suicides of workers in the last few years, a group of 300 employees threatened mass suicide on Jan. 4.

Foxconn’s reputation

Foxconn first reached the international stage in 2009 and 2010, when workers who were employed manufacturing iPhones and other electronic devices began committing suicide. A report by several Chinese universities, published outside China, highlighted that Foxconn campuses were essentially forced labor camps. Forced overtime, low wages and worker abuses together created a very bleak picture. Foxconn, in response, promised to treat its workers more fairly, but follow-ups have been thin, at best.

Workers threaten mass suicide

According to reports from anti-government news sources and Taiwanese news sources, about 300 Foxconn workers took to the top of the building in Wuhan province, threatening to jump and commit mass suicide. The workers were reportedly protesting over the speed of production lines, which allegedly left workers with bruises and blisters at the end of a shift. The workers were also reporting that their compensation demands were not being met and that the air in the plant was so full of dust they were left unable to breathe. Foxconn authorities claim the protest was over within hours, but some news sources are reporting that it went on for at least two days.

A question of manufacturing prices

The story of Foxconn is not just of workers protesting against mistreatment in manufacturing plants. Foxconn Technology Group manufactures a wide variety of technology products, including XBox 360, iPhones, iPods and other best-selling products. Part of the reason the products can be sold as inexpensively as they are in the United States is that the manufacturing cost in China is so low. There are some reports that as many as 20,000 employees quit Foxconn each month; those workers, however, are quickly replaced by more workers eager to be hired.


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