An unnamed Foxconn worker died today after falling off a roof at the Shenzhen plant. According to reports, neither Foxconn nor the police have yet confirmed the death as a suicide. It would be the 10th suicide of a Foxconn employee this year and the second suicide in the last five days.
Last Friday, a logistics worker named Nan Gang jumped from the fourth story of a building at the plant. Police revealed on Sunday that Nan, who was just 21 years old, is said to have had a load of debt due to his gambling habit. His former girlfriend was getting married and his new girlfriend left him early May. It was further claimed Nan had had fights with other workers at Foxconn’s massive plant and even employed the aid of other colleagues in order to get even. However, these decided to blackmail him later on and have now been apprehended by the police.
Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn’s Taiwanese parent company Hon Hai Group, stated the company is going to launch a programme to keep workers from killing themselves. He did admit that managing 800,000 employees isn’t the easiest job in the world. He said his company is not a sweatshop and claimed a mental health hotline had been installed in order to prevent future suicides.
China Labor Watch, an NGO based in New York, recently interviewed 25 workers. In the computer assembling department, workers claimed one working step had to be completed every seven seconds. Workers have to stay higly concentrated during an entire 10-hour shift, during which they stay standing and do not sit down. There however are two one-hour breaks.
A total of 4,000 Dell PCs are assembled per shift. “We can accomplish these assignments through collective effort, but many of us feel worn out,” said a worker. The high workload puts a lot of pressure on workers – if they take a break, they have their wage reduced while the workload remains the same.
Some workers have blamed the high workload for the suicides. Yet others say the main problem is the lack of a sense of community among the Foxconn employees. People sleeping in the same dormitories often do not greet one another nor know the name of their colleagues.
Workers also claimed one of the people who apparently committed suicide, Ma Xiangqian, was beaten to death. Ma’s severe headwounds were cited as the reason for the assumption. Nan Gang, the worker who committed suicide on Friday, is also said to have landed on his head and to have died as a consequence.
Another explanation given for the suicide spree is the bad relationship between the supervisors and workers. Supervisors are said to treat workers without respect, telling them instead that they are replaceable. Psychologists say young workers are not able to cope with both the workload and the bad treatment they receive from supervisors and management.