A 28-year old male worker at the Foxconn factory at Zhengzhou has committed suicide by jumping from a building.

Labour and human rights organisation China Labor Watch reports that on August 5, 2015, a male worker at the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, China jumped from a building to his death.

Foxconn Zhengzhou Campus

Foxconn Zhengzhou Campus

Foxconn Zhengzhou is a major supplier of iPhones and iPads.

Foxconn confirmed that a worker died on site, but didn’t comment on the cause of death.

The Zhengzhou factory employs about 200,000 people, and is a major manufacturer of Apple products. Foxconn employs almost a million workers in China, 85 percent of whom are young people from rural areas. Foxconn’s success testifies to the export-led dynamism of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone under China’s open policy. In the over twenty years since its initial investment in 1988, Foxconn has grown to be China’s largest exporter.

Apple suppliers – like suppliers of other major brands, such as Nike and Adidas – are under tremendous pressure to cut costs in order to win contracts. It is the workers who bear the brunt of these pressures, and yet companies like Apple shift the responsibility onto their suppliers.

Foxconn has a reputation for terrible working conditions, with long hours and low pay. Pressure is particularly high before the release of a new product. Foxconn has employed workers as young as 14. Workers – typically young migrants from the countryside –  live in crowded dormitories. In 2012, a riot broke out, involving 2,00o workers. There have been a number of suicides at Foxconn in the past, with 14 being reported in 2010.

A protest against Apple in San Francisco. Photo by Annette Bernhardt

A protest against Apple in San Francisco. Photo by Annette Bernhardt

In spring 2013, China Labor Watch reported that three Foxconn Zhengzhou workers committed suicide within a 20-day period. Some claimed that those suicides were linked to a “silent work mode” at Foxconn in which workers are purportedly threatened with termination if they talk on the job. (See press release 1 and press release 2.)

In October 2012, China Labor Watch reported that thousands of workers at the Foxconn Zhengzhou plant went on strike to protest pressure and conflict arising from stringent production demands of the iPhone 5.

Some activists argue that the suicides are an extreme form of protest. Millions of migrant workers experience disruption, alienation and very high levels of stress in these factories, with their race to the bottom and the just-in-time production model.

To die is the only way to testify that we ever lived

Perhaps for the Foxconn employees and employees like us

– we who are called nongmingong, rural migrant workers, in China –

the use of death is simply to testify that we were ever alive at all,

and that while we lived, we had only despair.

a worker blog (after the 12th jump at Foxconn)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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