A string of worker suicides at Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn has labor-rights groups up in arms and some of Foxconn’s largest manufacturing partners scrambling in damage-control mode.
Apple, which uses Foxconn to build its iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac Mini products, issued a statement Wednesday that it is “saddened and upset” by worker suicides at Foxconn’s sprawling manufacturing plant in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., told Bloomberg in a statement that it is “deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity.”
The first suicide at Foxconn to garner major media attention happened in July 2009, when a worker who had been questioned about a missing fouth-generation Apple iPhone prototype jumped to his death. Ten Foxconn wokers have died this year in similar circumstances, while an additional two employees have survived suicide attempts in 2010.
Other Foxconn partners issuing statements regarding the suicides on Wednesday included Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Motorola. The Foxconn Technology Group, anchored by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Group, is the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics and computer components.
“Motorola is saddened by the recent suicides at Foxconn, and our sympathy goes out to all the families affected,” the company said in a statement sent to CRN.com. Foxconn assembles cell phones for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola.
“We take very seriously the working conditions in our supply chain. Motorola is committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are in compliance with our supplier code of conduct and widely accepted norms of fairness and human decency,” the company said.
Motorola also said that is has been investigating labor conditions at Foxconn and would “take appropriate additional action as needed.” HP and Dell also issued statements saying they had initiated inquiries into the situation at Foxconn.
The Shenzhen factory is a “sweatshop,” alleged New York-based China Labor Watch last week following the suicide of the ninth Foxconn worker in 2010, Nan Gang, 21. On Tuesday, Li Hai, 19, plunged to his death after just 42 days on the job at the Shenzhen plant, bringing the total of falling suicides at Foxconn this year to 10.
Terry Gou, the Hon Hai Group’s billionaire chairman, has denied labor-rights groups’ charges and on Wednesday opened the Shenzhen factory for a media tour, according to reports.
Foxconn also manufacturers components for all three of the largest game console makers, Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo, maker of the Wii, said in a statement that it requires “all production partners, including Foxconn” to comply with its CSR Procurement Guidelines established in July 2008.
“We take our responsibilities as a global company very seriously and are committed to an ethical policy on sourcing, manufacture and labor,” Nintendo said in the statement.
Intel, which contracts with Foxconn to produce Intel-branded motherboards, said it did not have a comment on the situation Wednesday.