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Alarm over Apple factory suicides
Spate of suicides at Chinese tech firm raises concerns over factory worker rights.
Last Modified: 26 May 2010 19:06 GMT
Taiwan-based Foxconn employs tens of thousands of workers at its Shenzen factory [Reuters]

The Chinese government has expressed concern over a series of employee suicides at a factory which makes electronic products including Apple's iPod and iPad.

So far this year nine Foxconn workers at the Taiwan-owned Foxconn plant in the southern city of Shenzhen have died after jumping from buildings. 

Another employee committed suicide at a plant in northern China.

Critics have said employees at the factory are forced to work extended hours for low pay in sweatshop conditions.

A spokesman for China's state council said on Wednesday officials were working with Foxconn to implement effective measures to avoid further deaths.

"We welcome and encourage Taiwan companies to invest in the mainland," Yang Yi said in a statement.

"We also hope the employers would take care of their employees."

California-based Apple computers has said it is also evaluating steps taken by Foxconn to prevent further suicides.

'Saddened'

In a statement to the AFP news agency on Wednesday, Apple - which is preparing to launch its iPad computer tablet in countries outside the US on Friday - said it was committed to making sure workers in its supply chain were safe and treated
with respect.

Apple said it was committed to ensuring fair conditions at its suppliers' factories [Reuters]

"We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn," the company said.

"Apple is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity ... We are in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously."

The deaths have raised questions about the conditions facing millions of factory workers in China.

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Beijing, Melissa Chan, said that while much attention was being given to Foxconn deaths, it was also important to remember that China as a whole has an unusually high suicide rate, with an average of 12 suicides per 100,000 people every year.

Allegations

Foxconn's parent company, Hon Hai Precision based in Taiwan, has denied allegations that its staff are treated poorly or that the suicides are the result of work pressure.

On Wednesday the company's chairman, Terry Gou, flew into Shenzhen aboard his private jet defending his company's policies and urging reporters to see the factory for themselves.

"You know, Hon Hai has more than 800,000 workers worldwide, and it's not easy to manage such a large team," he said.

His comments followed a series of newspaper reports in which Foxconn workers spoke of long hours, harsh supervisors and low pay.

One 21-year-old employee from the southern province of Guangxi  told the South China Morning Post how she worked 12-hours a day, six days a week.

"The atmosphere inside our workplaces is so tight and depressing that we're not allowed to speak to each other for 12 hours or you'll be reproached by your supervisors," the employee was quoted as saying.

Source:
Agencies
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