Microsoft Xbox assembly workers threaten suicide in China labor dispute

“Dozens of workers assembling Xbox video game consoles climbed to a factory dormitory roof, and some threatened to jump to their deaths, in a dispute over job transfers that was defused but highlights growing labor unrest as China’s economy slows,” The Associated Press reports.

“The dispute was set off after contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group announced it would close the assembly line for Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 models at its plant in the central city of Wuhan and transfer the workers to other jobs, workers and Foxconn said Thursday,” AP reports. “Workers reached by telephone said Foxconn initially offered severance pay for those who wanted to leave rather than be transferred, but then reneged, angering the workers; Foxconn, in a statement, disputed that account, saying only transfers were offered, not severance.”

AP reports, “The workers climbed to the top of the six-story dormitory on Jan. 3 and threatened to jump before Wuhan city officials persuaded them to desist and return to work, according to the workers and accounts online. The workers gave varying estimates of the numbers involved in the strike, from 80 to 200, and photos posted online showed dozens of people crowding the roof of the boxy concrete building.”

“The fracas is the latest labor trouble to hit Foxconn, a unit of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. that makes iPads and iPhones for Apple Inc. as well as Xboxes and other gadgets, helping consumer electronics brands hold down costs,” AP reports. “Its massive China plants are run with military-like discipline, which labor rights activists say contributed to spate of suicides in 2010.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Gives new meaning to “Red Ring of Death.”

Now, wait, Foxconn assembles non-Apple electronics? Gee, from what we’ve been reading since 2010, we thought Apple was responsible for every suicide in China. Huh.

Well, now, you learn something new every day, don’t cha?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Foxconn’s 2012 plan: More robots, no layoffs, zero suicides, new factories – November 22, 2011
Apple audit led by COO Tim Cook prompted improvements at Foxconn – February 14, 2011
Latest Foxconn suicide brings utterly predictable media coverage – November 5, 2010
Foxconn to spend up to $10 billion on new Chengdu, China plant – October 15, 2010
Inside Foxconn, manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone, Sony PlayStations, and much more – September 10, 2010
iPhone-assembler Foxconn holds rallies in attempt to boost morale after worker suicides in China – August 18, 2010
Foxconn plans new $100 million iPhone factory in China, sparks CDMA iPhone talk – August 02, 2010
Foxconn to shift some Apple production to contain costs after drastic wage hikes – June 29, 2010
Foxconn factory workers to get 30 percent raise – June 02, 2010
Apple cuts iPad profit to give Foxconn factory workers big raise – June 01, 2010
Media blows it: Foxconn employees face significantly lower suicide risk – May 28, 2010
Why Foxconn is not really experiencing a ‘Suicide Cluster’ and Apple isn’t to blame – May 17, 2010


        1. And working at Mickey D’s would be much more job and life fulfilling by comparison. People are at least enjoying the product you’re making than being frustrated by it.

        1. Actually, the assembly labor cost in an iPad or iPhone is very small – I’ve seen estimates as low as 4%. Even if the labor cost were to rise to US union scale, the cost of the device would go up about 50% – not quadruple.

        2. Did the price of a Toyota or Hyundai quadruple when those companies moved manufacturing to the US? A lot more automation goes into these products than you realize. What drives companies to source in China is not just low wages but easier access to the Chinese market, lower taxes, looser regulation, etc.

          Indeed, there’s a growing move by a handful of Chinese companies to manufacture in the US, as they’re finding other factors like cheap land and energy (not to mention tax breaks) attractive.

  1. “Gives new meaning to “Red Ring of Death.” — not all stories deserve a retort… that’s actually very sad that they felt that desperate. I LOVE 99% of your comments and this site(!) but empathy is good quality to strive for; I would have resisted a joke for that serious story. Just sayin’. Now back to our regular scheduled programming.

      1. I know what black humor is, but apparently you don’t realize that not every situation warrants it. PS: No duh that did it to get attention but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t warrant reflection. Perhaps if you actually had the ability to think beyond yourself you might learn something … but I know that would hurt your head.

          1. not “holier than thou”, just making an observation that some items deserve a little more sincerely. Not saying there is no role in humor but I seldom see empathy. If you don’t want to give a hoot about others, that’s your prerogative. Enjoy.

    1. *DING* I strongly suspect that this was maneuvering to take advantage of the attention that suicides received over the past couple years at Foxconn. Sad to say but this fits very well into the ‘fake it’ aspect of the current Chinese culture. If someone had actually been serious enough to jump, I might have taken this seriously.

      In any case, I sympathize with anyone stuck living in that hellhole of a country. I also mourn that my country encourages China’s citizen abuse with money Money MONEY. 🙁

    1. Yes, JB, I was thinking about that, too. It’s pretty amazing anyone would joke about these people at all, MDN or anyone else. I understand black humor perfectly well, but this is a kind of manufacturing environment that’s basically inhuman. Apple better get out of there, it’s just not right. Love my iPad but I do look at it differently after that story.

      1. thanks for your comment. that’s all I was saying too, that regardless of the “ploy” of a suicide threat, that is not funny because the fact that they ALL feel so desperate over there that so many say (and do!) threaten suicide is sad on any level. The first child labor and coal mine, railroad, steel industry etc union/labor safety rules in this Country were for the same reasons! Thanks for your post.

  2. So, the workers use the threat of suicide as a negotiating tactic? Rather than crucify the commenters, have you even thought about what that says about the workers? Remember this is supposedly over JOB TRANSFERS.

    What kind of people would threaten suicide over job transfers? The workers are the ones making the notion of suicide a farce.

    1. Ken- I sincerely appreciate your comment but it’s much deeper than that. Most of the factory ‘cities’ are far removed from
      where the employees’ families actually live; so the companies give them “bunks” to live in during the week. But if they have to transfer that often means another 100 miles beyond the already far distances they already are from home — China is VAST. And their venting is really more about the working conditions than the transfers. But I’ll drop this whole topic since its beyond the scope. I don’t disagree that suicide should never be
      considered let alone used as a publicity stunt but it’s still unfortunate. Whatever. I’m done replying if no one cares beyond themselves.

    2. PS: it was *I* that was being “crucified” not the other way around; look and you will see that I simply commented my thought to MDN post; and fsck etc. attacked ME; but think what you will.

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