Reports: 3 More Foxconn Employees Commit Suicide
Suicide continues to plague Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant best known for making Apple products.
At least two Foxconn workers, and one prospective employee, have fallen to their deaths in Zhengzhou, China over the last 20 days, according to various reports. The most recent incident occurred on May 14, when a 30-year-old male from Henan, who had been working at Foxconn since the end of April, jumped off the roof of a building, New York-Based nonprofit China Labor Watch reported on Friday.
Before that, a 23-year-old female worker reportedly leapt off the twelfth floor of an apartment building on April 27, China Labor Watch said. Just days earlier on April 24, a 24-year-old male worker jumped off the roof of a dormitory building.
Foxconn's parent company Hon Hai told The Wall Street Journal in a statement that the employee deaths on April 27 and May 14 occurred outside of the company's property and there wasn't any reason to believe they were work-related. The technology giant said that the 24-year-old man who died on April 24 was not a Foxconn employee, but had applied for a job with the company.
According to a separate report from PCWorld, another worker from Foxconn's Chongqing, China facility was found dead on May 11 after jumping from a building. Police are investigating the incident.
At this point, the reason for the suicides is unclear.
HP Cracks Down on Student Labor in China
Hewlett-Packard is the latest major consumer electronics company to take a hard look at its overseas suppliers.
As first reported by the New York Times, HP today provided its Chinese suppliers with new rules regarding the use of student and temp workers.
The guidelines state that workers must be there on a voluntary basis and be permitted to leave without negative repercussions. All local rules regarding working age and hours must be enforced or exceeded. Students should also only be working on projects that complement their area of study, and the number of student workers should be limited. Factories should be "composed primarily of full-time workers," HP said.
"HP has a history of leadership in proactively addressing labor issues and driving supply chain improvements," Tony Prophet, senior vice president of Worldwide Supply Chain Operations at HP, said in a statement. "We have worked closely with leading Chinese stakeholders to develop our new student and temporary worker guidelines to ensure the highest standards of ethical workforce management."
Suppliers are being asked to comply with the guidelines immediately, HP said. Progress will be monitored via audits.
HP said its supply chain includes more than 1,000 production suppliers and tens of thousands of nonproduction suppliers in more than 45 countries and territories.
Foxconn Factory Conditions Improving, One Comfy Chair at a Time
Working conditions seem to be improving at Apple production partner Foxconn's mainland China factories, if that's what more comfortable chairs and protective foam on low stairwell ceilings mean.
A New York Times article published Wednesday details positive changes at Foxconn's China-based plants, which have been criticized by global labor rights groups and were toured by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) at Apple's request earlier this year.
In May, reports from both the Hong Kong-based watchdog group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) and the FLA found abuses at Foxconn facilities. This year's multiple Apple product launches put added pressure on the factories, which allegedly pushed workers into overtime and forced them to endure "humiliating" disciplinary action, including the writing and reading of confession letters, and manual labor duties like toilet cleaning.
A worker uprising came about a month later, when dozens of Foxconn employees were arrested during a riot at the Chengdu, China plant after a class with security staff. Furthermore, reports of an iPhone 5 production line strike surfaced just weeks after the new Apple smartphone hit shelves in September.
But could the Taiwanese contract manufacturing giant be turning things around just in time to make a New Year's resolution?
According to the Times, Foxconn has already carried out more than 280 of 360 changes recommended by the FLA.
Some Apple Mac Production Moving to U.S. in 2013, Cook Says
Apple chief Tim Cook confirmed this week that some parts of Mac production will come to the U.S. starting next year.
"Next year we are going to bring some production to the U.S. on the Mac," Cook said in a far-reaching interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. "We've been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it. It will happen in 2013."
Reports of a U.S.-made Mac made the rounds earlier this week when TechCrunch reported that some of the new iMacs said "Assembled in USA."
While many of Apple's products are produced overseas, it does have a plant in Elk Grove, Calif. TechCrunch pointed to a Sacramento Business Journal article from September, that said the Elk Grove facility had grown to 1,800 employees, up 50 percent from last year.
Cook did not comment on where in the U.S. the Macs will be produced. He conceded that Apple won't be working alone; "well be working with people, and we'll be investing our money," he said. But Cupertino will shell out "over $100 million," he said.
"We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it's broader because we wanted to do something more substantial," he said.
Foxconn Boss Confirms iPhone 5 Production Delays
Hon Hai Precision Industry and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou on Wednesday confirmed reports that production of Apple's new iPhone 5 is hitting snags and that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer is unable to supply Apple with as many units as the iPhone maker is requesting.
Gou didn't specify what was causing the production issues in a talk with reporters at a Taipei conference, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"Market demand is very strong, but we just can't really fulfill Apple's requests," Gou was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
It was first reported last month that certain difficult-to-produce components of the new iPhone, such as an anodized aluminum back casing that's prone to scratching, were making it difficult for Apple suppliers like Foxconn to produce the smartphones fast enough to meet demand.
Overtaxed quality control inspectors at Foxconn's mainland China facilities where iPhone 5s are assembled reportedly launched a strike in October to protest new tough-to-meet production standards, though Foxconn at the time denied that there had been a strike or any disruption to iPhone production.
PayPal Cuts 325 Jobs in Restructuring
PayPal today eliminated more than 400 jobs as it consolidated several of its product groups.
The company laid off 325 full-time employees, primarily in its product and tech groups, as well as 120 contract workers.
The move comes after PayPal said it redesigned its product organization and collapsed nine product groups into one.
"Instead of being organized around projects, our teams will now be dedicated to products and focused on our customers — consumers, developers, small businesses and large retailers," PayPal president David Marcus wrote in a blog post.
Marcus said PayPal is "strong and performing well," the layoffs are necessary to simplify the company.
"Moving forward, I'm confident these changes will make PayPal even better and stronger," Marcus continued. "Our customers can expect faster innovation and great products and experiences that make their lives simpler. That's our commitment — every day."
AMD to Lay Off 15 Percent of Workforce
Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday announced it will lay off 15 percent of its workforce around the world with a "significant portion" of the downsizing to occur in the final quarter of this year.
AMD had been expected to reveal a major restructuring effort while reporting a disappointing third quarter, though the number of layoffs the company announced was well below rumors that pink slips could be handed out to as much as a third of the chip maker's employees.
"These actions will return AMD to profitable growth," AMD president and CEO Rory Read said on a call with investors and analysts. The chip maker said the restructuring would also include closing down unspecified sites around the globe.
"Our restructuring efforts are decisive actions that position AMD to compete more effectively and improve our financial results. Reducing our workforce is a difficult, but necessary, step to take advantage of the eventual market recovery and capitalize on growth opportunities for our products outside of the traditional PC market," Read said.
The company said it expects its restructuring to result in fourth-quarter operational savings of $20 million, along with a savings of $190 million in 2013, though AMD will "record a restructuring expense in the fourth quarter of 2012 of approximately $80 million in connection with these actions."
Foxconn Admits to Hiring Underage Interns
Foxconn on Tuesday confirmed that it employed interns between the ages of 14 and 16.
"An internal investigation carried out by our company has confirmed media reports in China that some participants in the short-term student internship program that is administered at our campus in Yantai, Shandong Province are under the legal working age of 16 years," Foxconn said in a statement. "This is not only a violation of China's labor law, it is also a violation of Foxconn policy and immediate steps have been taken to return the interns in question to their educational institutions."
Foxconn said it is "carrying out a full investigation, in cooperation with the respective educational institutions, to determine how this happened and the actions that must be taken by our company to ensure that it can never happen again."
The company said its own investigation showed that the interns in question worked at Foxconn for about three weeks. "We have found no evidence of similar violations in any of our other campuses in China but we will not hesitate to take immediate action in any campus if any violations are discovered," the firm concluded.
The statement comes after the non-profit China Labor Watch released a report that said Foxconn employed underage interns between the ages of 14 and 16. "These underage interns were mainly sent to Foxconn by schools, but Foxconn did not check the IDs of these young interns," a spokesperson for China Labor Watch said on Moday. "The schools involved in this incident should take primary responsible, but Foxconn is also culpable for not confirming the ages of their workers. China Labor Watch calls on the Chinese government to improve the current intern system of Chinese schools."
In addition to various reports of stressful work conditions and long hours, as well as cramped on-campus living quarters, rumors regarding underage workers at Foxconn have been floated for months, but Foxconn denied any wrondoing, until now.
Foxconn Workers Strike Over iPhone 5 Quality Demands
A labor rights group said Friday that workers on the iPhone 5 production line at Foxconn's Zhengzhou factory went on strike earlier this week amidst overly burdensome quality control demands for Apple's new smartphone.
Approximately 3,000-4,000 workers went on strike on Monday, prompting a "widespread work stoppage on the factory floor," China Labor Watch said in a statement.
"According to workers, multiple iPhone 5 production lines from various factory buildings were in a state of paralysis for the entire day," China Labor Watch said.
Most of the workers, the group said, worked in onsite quality control (OQC). China Labor Watch said Foxconn and Apple imposed "strict quality demands" on workers regarding indentation standards and not allowing the frame and back cover of the phone to be scratched.
Furthermore, Foxconn did not allow workers to take a vacation day on Monday, which was China's National Day.
The labor group also said there were physical fights on the factory floor over the quality control issue, resulting in "the injury of some people, and the hospitalization of others."
"This strike is a result of the fact that these workers just have too much pressure," Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, said in a statement.
Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told Reuters that the strike did not shut down production.
Report: Worker Riot Halts Production at Apple Supplier Foxconn
On the eve of the Sept. 21 release of the iPhone 5, an undercover report emerged that offered new detail into the unsavory working conditions at the factories of Apple supplier Foxconn. Now the massive workforce behind the world's most popular smartphone is in the news again, this time due to a mini riot that occurred over the weekend that prompted a temporary halt in production.
The conflict occurred at Foxconn's Taiyuan plant, which houses roughly 79,000 workers. On Sunday night a fight broke out, which resulted in 5,000 police officers on the scene and 40 people sent to the hospital for injuries.
Details on what ignited the conflict remains scant as China's government generally censors independent social media reports. According to China's Xinhua news, the fight began because of a conflict between workers from two different provinces. But Reuters reported that the fight may in fact stem from a worker dispute with the company's security guards, resulting in the severe beating of one employee and setting off an angry protest from other workers. Yet another report by Micgadget, which claims to have a source inside the factory, indicated that local gang members may have escalated the dispute.