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Foxconn holds rallies to aid morale after suicides

Tue, 08/17/2010 - 10:05pm
GILLIAN WONG - Associated Press Writer - Associated Press

Following a string of suicides at its Chinese factories, Foxconn Technology Group raised workers' wages and installed safety nets on buildings to catch would-be jumpers. Now the often secretive manufacturer of the iPhone and other electronics is holding rallies for its workers to raise morale at the heavily regimented factories.

The outreach to workers shows how Foxconn has been shaken by the suicides and the bad press they have attracted to the normally publicity shy company. The latest suicide — the 12th this year — occurred August 4 when a 22-year-old woman jumped from her factory dormitory in eastern Jiangsu province.

The motivational rallies are titled "Treasure Your Life, Love Your Family, Care for Each Other to Build a Wonderful Future" and will be held at all facilities in China, according to Burson Marsteller, a public relations firm representing Foxconn.

"Foxconn feels it's perhaps time to look back and to learn from the tragedies and to send an important message to their employees that they are not alone, and that the Foxconn family is there to support them and to help them through their challenges," Burson Marsteller said in an e-mail. The e-mail invited reporters to attend a rally later Wednesday at its mammoth industrial park in Shenzhen, which employs 300,000 and where most of the suicides took place.

Foxconn, part of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., has built itself into the world's largest contract maker of electronics, by delivering quality products on thin profit margins for its customers which include Apple Inc., Sony Corp., Dell Inc., Nokia Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Labor activists, however, say that success has come in part from driving workers hard by enforcing a rigid management style, operating a too-fast assembly line and requiring excessive overtime. The company denies that it treats employees inhumanely and has pledged to prevent more suicides and improve worker well-being.

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