Communist party chief tells Foxconn to pull its socks up

The top dog of the Communist Party in Guangdong, China, has publicly announced a call for companies to improve working conditions following the string of suicides at Hon Hai’s plants.

Wang Yang, provincial party secretary, has said that more needs to be done to stop workers from snuffing it. Officially, the matter had been discussed for “a long time” and the announcement had not been prompted by the string of Foxconn workers who decide it would be easier to take their own lives than work another day. He called for recreational and sports activities to be introduced to “enhance communications” – and companies need to introduce more measures to help ease worker pressure.

Labour unions in private firms should be improved to facilitate better working conditions and more harmonious relations between workers and employers,” he said, according to Xinhua.

“Economic development should be people-oriented,” said Wang.

It surely can’t be coincidence that the miserable working conditions, particularly at the massive, 430,000-strong Shenzhen Foxconn factory have faced scrutiny by the press worldwide including in China’s own newspapers. Nor can it be coincidence that Apple has hit the panic button and is launching an independent inquiry into the conditions at the plant.

Ten young workers have leapt to their deaths so far this year, with three more suicide attempts on top of that. So far Hon Hai, trade name Foxconn, has introduced nets around its tall buildings, brought in Buddhist monks and set up an emotional help hotline for stressed workers.

We’re not entirely sure tennis or football en masse could be quite enough to alleviate the pressure inside the huge Shenzhen complex where workers must stay silent at all times, are brought in from large dormitories on shuttle buses, can’t sit down and breaks are deducted from the minimum wage salary of the workers. But it could be a start.