Apple, HP, Dell At Last Probe Foxconn Working Conditions

Apple Inc., HP and Dell Inc. at last are looking into working conditions at the Foxconn Technology Group factory in China where 10 employees have committed suicide so far this year. Four of those deaths have come in the month of May alone.

The three U.S.-based companies all outsource to Foxconn, whose official name is Hon Hai Group, for electronics manufacturing. Representatives for Apple, HP and Dell confirmed to Bloombergs BusinessWeek on Wednesday that investigations into Foxconns treatment of workers are underway.

The news came the same day as Terry Gou, the billionaire chairman of Hon Hai Group, paraded journalists through the Chinese factory where all the suicides have occurred, to prove Foxconn is not a sweatshop.

Whether Apple, HP and Dell will continue to use Foxconn remains unknown. Foxconn makes $40 billion per year by building iPhones, iPads, laptops, desktop computers and televisions and some observers say that revenue could be in jeopardy if Gou doesnt take serious measures soon.

Foxconn reportedly has taken steps beyond counseling to prevent employee suicides. Several media outlets on Wednesday said the company has installed nets to catch people who leap out of windows, and implemented roof patrols. The factorys suicide victims all resorted to jumping from the Foxconn complexs buildings.

Foxconn also has asked employees to sign a pledge promising not to commit suicide, according to reports.

The Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China boasts about 300,000 workers. The World Health Organization said Chinas suicide rate reached 14 per 100,000 people in 1999, although those numbers seem low.

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