As American consumers ogle over shiny new gadgets at this week's Consumer Electronic's Show, the workers that make those products are threatening mass suicide for the horrid working conditions at Foxconn. 300 employees who worked making the Xbox 360 stood at the edge of the factory building, about to jump, after their boss reneged on promised compensation, reports English news site Want China Times. It's not like this is the first time working conditions at Foxconn have made news outside China. But iPhone and Xbox sales surely haven't lagged in the wake of those revelations and neither Apple nor Microsoft has done much of anything to fix things.
Instead of the raise they requested, these workers were given the following ultimatum: quit with compensation, or keep their jobs with no pay increase. Most quit and never got the money. That's when the mass suicide threat came in. The incident actually caused a factory wide shutdown, reports Record China.
After the incident, Microsoft gave Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft the following statement.
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.
Sympathetic corporate statements aside, the conditions haven't much improved. Beyond this threat -- the mayor eventually talked the angry workers down -- suicides persist. Apple has given similar responses, saying it ensures safe working conditions and fair employee treatment.
That translates to making employees sign "no suicide" pacts and letting 13 year-olds work half-day long shifts, as Mike Daisey, a self-proclaimed Apple fanboy, details in this week's This American Life. Daisey goes to Shenzhen, China, where Foxconn employs over 400,000 workers. He talks to both factory workers and businessmen, gathering chilling information about the situation at the factory, discovering suicide nets, 36-hour shifts, 27-year-old burn outs with dismembered limbs and underage workers. Wouldn't Apple, a company obsessed with details -- so obsessed it even programmed Siri to avert uncomfortable questions about its origins, as host Ira Glass discovered -- pay attention to these very problematic details, wonders Daisey.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.