Another death at China iPhone plant

A 10TH employee of iPhone-maker Foxconn jumped to his death late on Wednesday, just hours after the company’s chairman promised to make life better for employees at the sprawling production site in southern China.

The company did not give details of the death but China’s official Xinhua news agency reported yesterday that an initial police investigation indicated the 23-year-old man took his life by jumping from a seventh floor dormitory balcony.

Another employee at Foxconn’s Shenzhen campus attempted to slit his wrists, but survived with medical attention, the Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

The deaths have thrown a spotlight on the labour practices of Foxconn, a unit of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, whose clients include Apple, Hewlett Packard and Sony Ericsson. Apple and other clients have said they are investigating working conditions at Foxconn, which has some 420,000 employees at its base in Shenzhen and has come under fire for its secretive corporate culture.

Workers live inside the factory complex and churn out products for the world’s leading computer and phone companies in round-the-clock shifts.

Taipei-based Hon Hai spokesman Arthur Huang confirmed the 10th death but denied reports on three Taiwan TV stations that another person, a young woman, had also jumped on Wednesday, surviving with serious injuries.

Just hours before the latest reports, the usually media-shy Foxconn chairman Terry Gou had opened the firm’s facilities to reporters and vowed to take action to prevent more deaths.

He made another trip to the plant yesterday.

All 10 of the deaths have been of young migrant workers, among the millions who leave the poor hinterlands of China for the boom towns of the south and east coastal areas in search of work and high wages.

The firm was training about 100 mental health counsellors and installing 1.5 million square metres of netting, Xinhua said.

“Although this seems like a dumb measure, at least it could save a life should anyone else fall,” an unnamed employer said.

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