Were they killed by the iPad?
Four employees of Foxxconn's Longhua plant in China, where the iPad is assembled, have committed suicide in the weeks preceding the much-hyped launch of Apple's tablet computer.
Were they killed by the iPad? Shortly after Apple unveiled its magic tablet, Chinese authorities published some disturbing statistics: since March 11, six employees at a plant located in Longhua, in southern China, and owned by Taiwanese company Foxconn have attempted suicide. Four have actually died by jumping from the windows of their dormitory. The last of these suicides occurred on April 7. In this mega-industrial complex, the largest in the world, iPads are assembled for the global market.
Several media sources in China and around the world have suggested a link between the new Apple product and the employees’ fate. From the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph to the China News daily (which is closely linked to the Chinese authorities), journalists have questioned the increasing number of suicides and their timing, which coincided with the last stretch before Apple's new gadget was commercialised. According to China News, one of the employees who tried to commit suicide said that the pressure had increased on employees during this period. One of his colleagues who took his own life had just lost his bonus after failing to keep up with the boss’s demands to accelerate the pace of work.
One of the most secretive plants in the country
Foxconn, which oversees the assembly of the iPad, is well-known by workers’ rights organisations in China. One of its employees had already committed suicide last July after he was accused of losing an iPhone, the Apple smart phone. However, Foxconn’s responsibility in this case has never been established.
According to China News, after the recent wave of suicides, unions in the province of Zenshen, where the plant is located, asked Foxconn to ensure "more livable working conditions" for its employees.
Authorities have already started a police investigation to determine the exact causes of the suicides, but the Longhua plant, which employs 300,000 people, is considered one of the most secretive in the country.
Specialising in high-tech products, the company’s clients also include the likes of Microsoft and HP. Even though this is the first time that Longhua has faced such a spate of suicides over such a short period of time, working conditions at the site have always been the subject of criticism. During an interview with China News, the head of the local union referred to the company as a "military camp”.