Silence Finally Broken in Foxconn Suicide Saga

We'd like to say that Foxconn has been under fire for a rash of employee suicides that have occurred this year, but up until now, the company hasn't really been under fire at all, not by those who have the power to make a difference, anyway. It was less than a week ago that we reported another Foxconn worker had fallen from a building to his death, at the time the tenth fall since the start of the year, eight of which ended up being fatal. It's a sad situation and we questioned why there was a veil of silence, not just from Foxconn, but also from the companies who use Foxconn for manufacturing of their products, including Apple.

Well, the veil of silence has finally been lifted, starting with a long overdue apology from Foxconn's CEO, Gou Tai-Ming, to the victims' families. Tai-Ming also explained what steps are being taken to prevent further suicides.

"We want every employee to be happy while working here, and with a happy life," Tai-Ming said. "This is our goal which has been advertised, today, the goal will not change, as for the future, it will not change too. What we have to change, is to strengthen the future (on employee happiness while working). We did a lot of work, I will show you my record diary of our conference meeting, we have 70 psychiatrist to prevent suicides, we have trained 100 voluntary workers, they need to pass the exam to qualify for the care and counseling department. As our suicide prevent mechanism, we now have a reporting system for it, a 50-member working group is soon to be established…"

Seemingly sincere, Tai-Ming said the suicides have taken a toll on him as well, so much so that he himself is considering psychiatric counseling. At the same time, Tai-Ming doesn't seem to have a handle on the situation. It was reported by that Tai-Ming has asked the media to stop reporting on the suicides, and at one point it seems that Foxconn had considered having employees sign a "No Suicide" clause freeing Foxconn from any legal liability.

Tai-Ming isn't the only one who is finally speaking out. Apple, one of Foxconn's biggest customers, said they have launched their own investigation.

"We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn," Apple said. "We're in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously. A team from Apple is independently evaluating the steps they are taking to address these tragic events and we will continue our ongoing inspections of the facilities where our products are made."

Dell too has come forward with a statement:

"We expect our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities," Dell said. "We enforce these standards through a variety of tools, including the Electronics Industry code of conduct, business reviews with suppliers, self-assessments and audits."

And in an email to Businessweek, HP said they are investigating "the Foxconn practices that may be associated with these tragic events."

Whether or not any of this will result in fewer suicides remains to be seen, but at least companies appear to no longer be burying their collective heads in the sand.
Tags:  Suicide, foxconn, workers