Foxconn may be firing suicidal workers before they can kill themselves

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Better keep smiling.
Better keep smiling.
Image: 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.