Published June 14, 2012
A 23-year-old Chinese Foxconn worker jumped to his death on Wednesday -- the latest in a series of suicides at the Apple supplier’s plant that had rights' groups worldwide voicing concern.
The death is the first since the company said it would improve conditions for workers.
The 23 year-old man fell from his apartment outside the plant in the southwestern city of Chengdu, according to a Foxconn statement. The worker had joined the company last month and police were investigating the death, Reuters reported.
Foxconn employs 1.2 million workers in China to assemble products not just for Apple, but for Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other pillars of the U.S. technology industry.
The company has become the subject of worldwide scrutiny, following 18 suicides and very public attention, including an ABC Nightline investigation and a one-man Broadway play by Mike Daisey sensationalized and later retracted by public radio program "This American Life."
Apple has kept a close watch on its suppliers for years, and in January took the further step of joining the Fair Labor Assocation. The organization has audited overseas suppliers for fashion companies and other industries, but Apple was the first electronics company to join. It also commissioned the FLA to produce a special audit of Foxconn's factories.
"Our team has been working for years to educate workers, improve conditions and make Apple's supply chain a model for the industry, which is why we asked the FLA to conduct these audits," Apple said in a March statement.
Workers who assemble iPhones and iPads often put in more than 60 hours per week --and sometimes work for a week straight-- in violation of Chinese law, according to that audit.
The FLA found that most workers want to work even more overtime so they can make more money.
According to the March agreement, Foxconn would hire tens of thousands of new workers to reduce overtime, improve safety protocols and upgrade housing and other amenities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.