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Foxconn workers at 360 plant threaten mass suicide

Tue 10 Jan 2012 2:17pm GMT / 9:17am EST / 6:17am PST
PeopleHardware

Update: Microsoft responds

Update

Microsoft has responded to the story with an official statement regarding its policy on using Foxconn as a manufacturer.

"Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue," a spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz.

"We have a stringent Vendor Code of Conduct that spells out our expectations, and we monitor working conditions closely on an ongoing basis and address issues as they emerge. Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors, and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy."

Original story:

300 workers at a Foxconn manufacturing plant in China have reportedly threatened mass suicide after a request for a pay increase was denied by the company, followed by backpedalling on an alternative compensation deal.

Foxconn produces a vast array of Western electronics, including products for Nintendo, Apple, Sony and Microsoft. The workers at this particular plant, in Wuhan, had been working on assembly lines constructing Xbox 360s, reports Kotaku.

Having been offered a choice between continued work or compensated dismissal, many workers chose to leave and take the payments offered. However, those payment offers were then rescinded, leading the group to take to the plant's roofs and threaten to jump.

Various anti-government websites in China reported the case, which occurred last week. It has also been reported that the Mayor of Wuhan was called upon to intervene in the stand-off, ending the confrontation peacefully at 9pm on January 3.

Foxconn as come under fire repeatedly from human rights campaigners and workers groups before, both from within and outside of China. Most notoriously, the group is said to have installed anti-suicide netting in some plants after at least 12 workers who had been manufacturing iOS devices for Apple ended their own lives in protest at working conditions and treatment.

In a statement issued to Kotaku in 2010, after a spate of similar incidents and complaints at plants producing Microsoft goods, the Microsoft's Phil Spencer claimed that: "Foxconn has been an important partner of ours and remains an important partner.

"I trust them as a responsible company to continue to evolve their process and work relationships. That is something we remain committed to - the safe and ethical treatment of people who build our products. That's a core value of our company."

Microsoft has been contacted for comment on the events in Wuhan.

27 Comments

And I thought the public sector strike was bad. O_o

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Paul Baker
Game Designer

13 0 0.0
Wow. Anti-suicide netting. Puts things in perpective.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Pier Castonguay
Programmer

189 106 0.6
Why don't they just go work somewhere else?

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Mihai Cozma
Indie Games Developer

123 34 0.3
I don't think they have an option to work somewhere else, at least not in better conditions. They have very hard lives in there, try google it a bit.

Posted:2 years ago

#4
Sounds like real life battery hens....Foxconn (hmm could be a good Metal Gear Solid game..)

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,072 1,007 0.9
@Pier
Tell me you did not post that seriously. Find yourself a good documentary about Chinese factories and Chinese migration workers, if you did.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Jason Whitaker
Senior Progammer

5 2 0.4
I can't believe the flippancy of some comments here. These poor people are essentially slaves to produce the consumer goods we (and I mean WE - OUR INDUSTRY) depend on for our livelihoods!

And for what? So the big corporations can shave a few pennies here and there...

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Ian Jarvis
artist

14 2 0.1
The companies that use Foxconn to manufacturer their devices would have made a much greater effort to fix the evident problems there if they had any sense of morality. But who cares about human rights if the abuses are not affecting your bottomline.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Pablo Santos
Developer

23 18 0.8
This is really sad.
I think that's what happens when profit / lowest cost is the main reason for choosing suppliers.
There is always someone paying for an extremely low cost.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Rod Oracheski
Editor

58 23 0.4
@Ian What are they supposed to do - have someone at the plant monitoring conditions 24/7? Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and Apple - as well as all the other manufacturers that use Foxconn - can't fix the problems there, they rely on Foxconn (in the same way they rely on all their other partners) to run their business in a legitimate fashion. Their only option is to pull their production and use other means, but consumers, for as much as they'll complain about these conditions, also aren't willing to pay more for the products made there. Catch 22.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

John Donnelly
Quality Assurance

313 38 0.1
Foxconn are a huge company with a number of plants in Asia.
They can dictate terms to companys like Microsoft not the other way round.

There are not many companies who have the capacity Foxconn does so without a good rival who can do the do the job with a better quality of life for its workers there is not much that can be done.

I agree with Rod, without us being willing to pay more for our goods the quality of life for these people wont improve.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Gregore Candalez
Journalist and Account Assistant

53 3 0.1
A company with "Anti-suicide nets", definitely much cheaper than creating a mechanism to prevent suicide opposed to improving the workers' conditions and payment. These policies get on my nerve. Worst part is the passive-aggressive approach of the Western companies who use Foxconn outsourced workmanship. "We won't comment anything relevant, but we'll politically correct say we couldn't care less about their problems as long as we are making money". I agree that money is very, super important, but some standards must be maintained.

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

411 558 1.4
The problem, which Rod is correct on, is the consumer. The consumer doesn't care how many people die at Foxconn; they want their systems and parts, and they want them at the lowest possible price. They don't care how the hot dogs are made, just that they're tasty. If Apple raised the price of their iPhone $100 and advertised that they took their business out of Foxconn, lazy Americans would be rioting about it until they ran out of breath and found something else shiny to play with.

The only interest Microsoft, Nintendo et all have is minimizing the public relations hit from this. That's all. They're a public company, and I've stated my thoughts on the public sector ad nauseum.

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Alex Bunch
Proof Reader

94 106 1.1
Completely agree with Ian. For others to say that there's nothing Microsoft, Nintendo etc can do about it is absolutely pathetic. Some things are more important than the bottom line.

Posted:2 years ago

#14

Jose Martin
Entrepreneur & Financing - Media / Tech / Interactive Entertainment

23 19 0.8
Yes.."Lazy Americans" would riot if prices of their fav electronic gadgets rose... because as everyone knows, only Americans buy Products from Sony, Apple, Nintendo and Microsoft...(*sigh*) - the same "Lazy Americans" who have an individual and collective charitable giving rate that far exceeds the people of any other industrialized nation in the world, the same "lazy Americans" who volunteer for and administer international relief and humanitarian organizations in numbers that dwarf all other nations...One would not expect such glaring ignorance from an "Editor-in-Chief" but I guess it's a foolish assumption as I imagine even the most intellectually deficient among us can do at least some type of job competently.

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Rob Schatz
Student

2 0 0.0
Hey I have an idea - how about we build consoles here in the U.S. and give people jobs?

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Spencer Franklin
Concept Artist

93 124 1.3
@Christopher Bowen
I am guessing you don't own any of the products manufactured by any of the companies mentioned? I didn't realize we "Lazy American" were the only "Lazy" people around purchasing such things... thanks for opening my eyes../end sarcasm

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Tony Tran
Sr. Producer & PM

2 0 0.0
First the Apple related suicides and now this. Tough situation for all parties unless better regulations are setup.

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Sam Spain
Studying computer Science (Games Development)

17 3 0.2
None of this is news really, Foxconn is down right evil and we've known this for years. These people who work for Foxconn have horrible lives and for a lot of people in China, life is very unpleasant.

It's a sad fact of life. Something that we don't really have any control of. My motherboard is manufactured by Foxconn. I bet you have something made by Foxconn too.

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Joshua Patrick Dyer
Studying Joshua Dyer

2 0 0.0
A friend working for a western newspaper reporting on Foxconn in China told me that the reason many workers are driven to despair is not that the conditions there are worse than at other factories. Foxconn is actually considered one of the best places to work. Despair sets in when workers realize that is as good as it's going to get. In general, China has come a long way from the true sweatshops of the past, but when you realize you're going to live in a shared dorm room the rest of your life, with only two days off a month, things get grim. The one hope is moving to a better factory/company. Then you reach Foxconn, the supposed cream of the crop, and realize it's just the same routine on a slightly elevated rung. That's when true despair sets in. I'm not here to say Foxconn is the perfect employer, but you can understand their reluctance to grant raises when they're already reasonably generous by local standards. I'll probably get blasted as a China apologist, but this is just what I've heard on the streets as a critically minded westerner living in China.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Baiyu Ouyang
Oversea BD of Games

1 0 0.0
The CORE problem is still Microsoft... They take most of the profits of each Xbox 360 instead of Foxconn or the poor Chinese workers... Foxconn is also producing iPhones for Apple, and for every iPhone only 5-Yuan (leass than $1) left for Foxconn... so think about how much Apple takes and how much Foxconn IS ABLE TO give the workers...

Posted:2 years ago

#22

Kevin Clark-Patterson
Lecturer in Games Development

291 23 0.1
*sigh*

Some of these comments are down right ignorant while some provide at least a possible insight.

I am sure Apple, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft etc all have a moral duty to play with regards how much Foxconn receive but ultimately the responsibility for the workforce lies with Foxconn themselves.

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Tamir Ibrahim
Programmer

75 56 0.7
The problem is not just Foxconn. Surely people can't be so naive as to think the jeans they are wearing were made in much better working conditions.

It is a sad state of affairs but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of products that we buy and consume all which have morally questionable backgrounds. Consumers just don't really care though. You can't place all the blame on the companies. Sure they hold some responsibility but we, as consumers, are just as much to blame for placing no pressure whatsoever on these companies to change practise.

Posted:2 years ago

#24

Florie Vignon
PR Specialist

1 0 0.0
I think the problem is much bigger than Foxconn or Microsoft. Like it was said in previous comments, such factories, working condition and prices will be maintained as long as the companies' policy is to make more profit and the customers' is to buy as cheap as possible.

Have Xbox 360s manufactured in the US, why not, but who will agree to pay the increased cost of labor? Microsoft? Customers? I think this problem is inherent to our consumerist society, and there is not much any of these companies can do on a large scale. The question is, what can we do at our level?

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Brian Smith
Artist

195 84 0.4
This is much bigger than a Microsoft or Apple problem. It's not something any of these companies can address. What we are seeing here is the result of both our ailing economies and their booming economy. It's a global economics issue that can't be solved by making stuff elsewhere. Guilt for this needs to fall on the Chinese government, no one else.

Posted:2 years ago

#26

DAVID WESTLAKE
Studying BA Design for Games

2 0 0.0
I don't want millions of "slaves" working 28 days a month to produce my consumer goods :@

Posted:2 years ago

#27

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