There has been global criticism of a Chinese factory making Apple products after a rash of suicides and complaints that workers are paid little and worked hard. Finally, Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. has acted: it has had workers sign that they would not kill themselves. It is a major breakthrough since overworked employees may be willing to take their lives but they would think twice before breaking a contract in China.
The Taiwanese company operates a huge factory complex in the southern city of Shenzhen. The company employs 300,000 people in the China’s Pearl River Delta. Foxconn has had eleven suicides recently.
By signing the pledge, workers agree not to commit suicide and to seek medical help, if necessary, in a mental or physical hospital. This is not the only reform, however. The company has begun to hang nets around factories to stop people from throwing themselves off buildings.
One possible spin for the pledge is that it creates a record that employees were aware of the availability of mental health assistance for liability purposes. However, workers have little ability to sue in China — which is why companies like Apple flock to the country for its low wages, health costs, and environmental costs. It is surprising that Apple has been relatively slow in responding and that the backlash against the company has been so muted given the earlier controversies involving Nike.
Presumably, Foxconn will also stop playing its soundtrack below for workers waiting to see health care specialists:
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