Foxconn may be firing suicidal workers before they can kill themselves

In this March 28, 2012 photo provided by Apple, Inc., Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, visits the iPhone production line at the newly-built manufacturing facility Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, which employs 120,000 people. A report released Thursday, March 29, by the Washington-based Fair Labor Association says Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese company that runs Apple's factories in mainland China, has committed to reducing weekly work time to the legal Chinese maximum of 49 hours. (AP Photo/Apple)
Better keep smiling. (AP Photo/Apple)

Apple’s Taiwanese supplier, Foxconn, is no stranger to suicide scandals. After several workers who live in dormitories at its mainland Chinese factory complex attempted to jump to their deaths in 2010 (with some succeeding), the company installed anti-suicide nets.

Now, a Chinese newspaper reports that one worker who was observed by a colleague taking sleeping pills was fired by Foxconn for allegedly “disrupting order”. The worker, a 27-year-old man surnamed Zhang, told the Southern Metropolis Daily (Chinese) that he regularly took pills for insomnia and was carted to hospital on April 2 after a colleague observed him swallowing the tablets and assumed he was trying to commit suicide. The next day, he lost his job.

Foxconn has not commented on the report about Zhang; a Quartz email to a spokesman received no response. The Taiwanese company was forced to deny posts on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo last week that claimed yet more staff were threatening to kill themselves.

Last August, the Fair Labor Association studied Foxconn and concluded it was treating workers better. But NGO China Labor Watch reported last September that Foxconn workers were required to assemble 6500 iPhone per day, and were prevented from taking breaks. The NGO also said that Foxconn was employing student interns as young as 14. In November, the Economic Policy Institute claimed the Fair Labor Association had been too easy on Foxconn, visiting the Taiwanese company’s factories when it was not overly busy and therefore able to claim its staff were not overworked.

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