Rash of Suicides Prompt Foxconn to Raise Worker Wages

Foxconn thinks they have a solution to the mounting suicides that have rocked the company's China operations: pay the workers more money. According to reports, Foxconn plans to raise wages by 30 percent, which still isn't all that much, but it's a start. One report has the basic salary at Foxconn's China plants at about 900 yuan a month, or just over $130.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an unauthorized Foxconn spokesman told the Associated Press that the pay raise is designed to reduce overtime and give workers "more time for leisure and have a happier working environment. It may also help cut the turnover rate and raise productivity and product quality level."

Foxconn is the biggest supplier of OEM products in the world and builds a number of high-end products, including Apple's iPhones and iPads. But the company has come under heavy fire lately for frequent suicide attempts, most of which were 'successful.' Most recently, a 25-year-old worker tried to take his life by slashing his wrists in the factory dormitory last week. The other attempts involved jumping off of buildings, with one man said to have stabbed himself numerous times in the chest for jumping to his death.

According to the AP report, labor activists have bemoaned Foxconn's work environment for the company's rigid management style, fast assembly line, and forced overwork. Foxconn says the allegations aren't true. Whether the pay raise will have the kind of effect Foxconn is hoping for remains to be seen.

"Live is meaningless," Ah Wei, a Foxconn worker who put in a 12-hour overnight shift building mobile phones, told Bloomberg. "Everyday, I repeat the same thing I did yesterday. We get yelled at all the time. It's very tough around here."

As Bloomberg reports it, workers aren't allowed to talk on the production lines, bathroom breaks are limited to 10 minutes every two hours, and ear plugs do little to protect from the constant barrage of noise pollution that sweeps through the factory.

Stories like Ah Wei's -- which isn't his real name, by way -- makes you wonder if Apple can truly be "all over this," as Steve Jobs said yesterday at a technology conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. According to Jobs, Foxconn is "not a sweatshop." Maybe not, but thus far, it's been a deathtrap for too many young employees.