Xbox 360 Assembly Line Workers Threaten Mass Suicide in China

Just in case you were looking a buzzkill after the chaotic euphoria wrought by CES, here it is: According to the Guardian, dozens of Foxconn workers in the city of Wuhan protested the company’s plan to close the Xbox 360 production line they worked on by threatening to jump from one of the six-story factory buildings. Indeed, a large number of workers stood atop the roof as Wuhan city personnel talked them down.

Foxconn planned to close down the line and either transfer those who worked there or pay them severance. Apparently, there was confusion among the ranks, as various sources said that Foxconn offered no severance (only transfers), that Foxconn initially offered severance but then backed out of the deal, and that no offer at all was made to some of the workers.

Workers threatening to commit mass suicide at the Wuhan factory

The official word from Foxconn, according to the article:
Foxconn said that it offered transfers to some workers at current pay, without elaborating on what others were offered. It said that 150 demanded severance and not all of them participated in the rooftop protest. "It is our understanding that certain individuals threatened to jump from the building if their demands were not met," the statement said.
In the end, just 45 workers left, with the rest opting to stay on with Foxconn.

Foxconn suicides are sadly nothing new; in the last couple of years, depressed or exasperated workers have flung themselves off of company buildings. Further, reports have circulated that the company hires underage workers, offers low pay, and maintains a strict, oppressive work environment that no American workers would stand for.

Wuhan city officials at the scene

In the end, thankfully, nobody actually leaped--the report indicated that it was more of a protest stunt than an actual threat of mass suicide--but the situation highlights the deep dysfunction in the factories that manufacture so much of the computer technology used around the world.