updated 08:50 am EDT, Wed May 26, 2010
Both Apple and HP concerned over Foxconn deaths
Apple and HP together said they were investigating whether harsh working conditions at Foxconn were triggering a rash of suicides at the Chinese manufacturer. Following a ninth death, the two are launching independent checks to verify and possibly pressure Foxconn into following certain labor rights guidelines. Apple was the most vocal in its concern; it's "saddened and upset" at the suicides and is taking action, according to spokesman Steve Dowling.
"We're in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously," he said in an official statement. "A team from Apple is independently evaluating the steps they are taking to address these tragic events and we will continue our ongoing inspections of the facilities where our products are made."
HP wasn't as elaborate but more explicitly drew a connection, saying it would investigate "the Foxconn practices that may be associated with these tragic events."
Foxconn's chief executive Terry Gou has repeatedly denied that his company operates in sweatshop-level conditions, which allegations have implied include mandatory overtime well over the legal limit as well as low pay and a lack of breaks. He has admitted, however, that the suicides could be "contagious" by setting an example and that he has had a lack of sleep for "more than a month."
Such abuses aren't exclusive to Foxconn and may be common in many companies that operate in China, such as Meitai, Wintek and others. As the largest contract manufacturer in the region, however, it has the most impact as it supplies many more companies than just Apple and HP.