Another suicide at Foxconn after boss attempts damage control

Hours after Foxconn boss and founder Terry Guo led 200 journalists around the company’s Longhua facility in Shenzhen, another young worker jumped to his death, bringing the total number of such suicides at the plant to ten this year, with three just this week.

And according to unconfirmed reports another young woman survived a fall early in the hours of Thursday morning, the third attempted suicide this year.

During the press walkabout, Mr Guo apologized for the spate of suicides and, when pressed by journalists, promised to withdraw a letter of agreement the company had drafted in which employees would have to promise not to self harm and allow the company to hospitalize them if they exhibited abnormal behaviour patterns.

The Taiwanese billionaire blamed the suicides on China’s social problems and refused to accept that excessive overtime or Foxconn’s strict and disciplinarian management style had anything to do with the issue.

However, the company’s attempts to slow down the “suicide express,” as it has been dubbed in the Chinese media, have had little effect. Foxconn has drafted in hundreds of psychiatrists and Buddhist monks, set up a telephone hotline and stress-relief centre and erected barriers and safety nets to deter suicides. But thus far it has done nothing to address the core grievances of workers.

The vast majority of workers complain of low basic salaries which force them to work excessive overtime just to earn a living wage. At their work station, they are under constant pressure to work as quickly and efficiently as possible and avoid social interaction with their co-workers.

Instead of simply trying to relieve the pressure that the company itself has placed on young workers, Foxconn should focus on eliminating that pressure in the first place, by, amongst other things, paying higher wages so that employees do not have to work 60 hours overtime each month and consequently have more time to relax, socialize and enjoy all the facilities at Longhua that Mr Guo was so keen to show off yesterday.
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