Foxconn resolves pay dispute that prompted mass suicide threat


Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn claims it has resolved a pay dispute with workers at a factory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in the wake of a large protest that had as many as 300 workers threatening to commit suicide by jumping from the top of a factory building. According to Foxconn, the conflict has been resolved peacefully following negotiations between the workers and officials from both Foxconn and the local government. Most of the protesting workers agreed to return to their jobs; however, Foxconn says about 45 workers had chosen to resign.

Foxconn did not release any details of their agreement with the workers, although the New York Times reports one worker said they had been promised additional compensation for returning to work. The Associated Press reports that Foxconn announced it would close the Wuhan assembly line and transfer the workers to other jobs, but did not offer severance pay to workers who chose to resign.

Foxconn is one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers, and makes devices under contract for companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, and (famously) Apple—Foxconn is the maker of Apple’s popular iPhone. The Wuhan facility reportedly manufacturers Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console.

This incident isn’t the first time Foxconn has had to deal with issues of suicide: in 2010, several workers committed suicide at a range of the company’s facilities in China. Foxconn’s partners applied pressure to the company to improve conditions for its employees, and Foxconn even agreed to a 30 percent pay increase for employees. However, the company also required workers to sign a “no suicide” clause that limits the amount of compensation a worker’s family can receive if they die—there were reports that some workers were considering suicide as a way of generating a big payday for their families.

China has seen an increase in labor protest and outright strikes in the last year. In Foxconn’s case, the company pledged to improve working conditions and construct new facilities so workers could be closer to their families. However, at least some of the protestors at the Wuhan facility were angry at being forced to move there from Shanghai—and, when they arrived, they found poorer working conditions.

[Updated 12-Jan-2012 12PM with additional information reported by AP.]