HARDWARE VENDORS are distancing themselves from Foxconn as the death toll rises at one of its Chinese factories.
For weeks, reports have surfaced about the working conditions of employees and provided a morbid count of suicides at Hon Hai Precision Industries, better known as Foxconn. The Chinese manufacturer employs close to 900,000 workers to produce gadgets for companies likes Apple, Dell and HP. Now those firms are trying to distance themselves from Hon Hai and allegations of oppressive living and working conditions at its city-like factory complexes.
A recent undercover investigation paints a picture of appalling conditions for employees. With the count of suicides having steadily grown over the past several months, that has led Hon Hai founder Terry Gou to show journalists that workers, who presumably have completed overtime work that they seek due to low pay, have access to a swimming pool. While Gou was doing his best to counter reports that Foxconn's factories are nothing more than soul-killing sweatshops, a number of his biggest customers have announced internal investigations.
Apple has said that it is "saddened and upset" at the recent suicides and has announced that it has teams "independently evaluating" the steps Hon Hai has taken to address these events. HP has come out saying that it was investigating "the Hon Hai practices that may be associated with these tragic events." Dell has also weighed in, saying that it expects suppliers to "employ the same high standards" as in its facilities, all but admitting that Hon Hai's standards are below Dell's.
While the recent statements are welcome, given that they were only issued after the story hit mainstream media one has to wonder whether this is just damage control rather than any indication that changes will be made.
Given that companies typically survey facilities and have their own staff onsite to maintain quality levels, it would be shocking if Apple, Dell and HP were unaware of factory conditions at Foxconn.
For the workers, thankfully the international attention that's finally being paid to their plight may force the multinational corporations that profit from their hard work to address their own lack of corporate conscience. µ
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