Foxconn worker falls to death in suspected suicide

Over a dozen Foxconn workers attempted suicide last year leading to a controversy over working conditions

An employee of Foxconn fell to his death in China earlier this week, just a year after a string of suicides at its facilities in the country.

The Taiwanese electronics maker confirmed the death, and said the matter had been handed over to the police. The company did not say if the death was an accident or the result of a suicide attempt.

Local Chinese media first reported the worker's death, and said it occurred on Monday at a Foxconn dormitory in Shenzhen. The 21-year-old male worker jumped to his death from the sixth floor of the building.

A Foxconn executive suggested the death was due to a drunken accident, adding that the employee had only done two hours of overtime since joining the company, according to a news report.

Foxconn is a major maker of electronics products for companies like Apple, HP and Sony. More than a dozen Foxconn workers tried to commit suicide last year, and some died, by jumping from company buildings, with most of the attempts occurring from March to May.

Watchdog groups like Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) in Hong Kong blame the suicide attempts on the poor working conditions at Foxconn's factories in China. SACOM declined to comment on the death this week, because the group has as yet to get access to the victim's family.

Foxconn workers have previously reported feeling that they "work like machines" and are exhausted every day, said Debby Chan, a SACOM project officer.

Following last year's suicide attempts, both Foxconn and Apple reported taking measures to improve working conditions at the factories. Apple even sent its chief operating officer Tim Cook to China in June 2010 to better understand the conditions.

Foxconn has previously said it follows a maximum 60-hour work week for its employees that includes overtime. The company has also created a 24-hour support hotline with counselors available and said it is paying the highest wages in the industry. The measures have helped save lives and kept employee retention high, according to Foxconn.

News of the suspected suicide comes two months after an explosion at a Foxconn polishing workshop in the Chinese city of Chengdu killed three workers. Combustible dust in a duct caused the blast, according to Foxconn. SACOM, however, blamed the incident on poor safety conditions at the factory.

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