Worker commits suicide at Apple supplier Foxlink, report says


Workers are seen inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in the southern Guangdong province in this May 26, 2010 file photograph. (BOBBY YIP/REUTERS)

A Chinese man reportedly killed himself last month in response to treatment from his employer, Foxlink — a firm that supplies components to Apple.

According to a report from the IDG News Service, He Cheng jumped to his death from the sixth floor of a company building on Sept. 29, just 20 days after beginning work there. His family told the news service that he was despondent after managers at the company denied his request for three days of personal leave in order to visit his family on a national holiday.

The IDG report also said that the company was pressuring employees to work through the holiday because of increased production demand for the iPhone 5. Analysts have said Apple’s latest smartphone, which sold a record 5 million units in its opening weekend, may be facing supply constraints.

Foxlink is listed in Apple’s 2011 supplier list as “Cheng Uei Precision Industry Co., Ltd. (Foxlink) and is based in Taiwan,” the report said. He worked at a factory in the southeastern city of Dongguan.

Neither Foxlink nor Apple could immediately be reached for comment on the reports of He’s death.

A 2010 report from Bloomberg identifies Foxlink as a company that makes cables. The firm’s chief executive officer is T.C. Gou. He is the brother of Terry Gou, the CEO of Apple supplier Foxconn.

The labor practices at Chinese companies in Apple’s supply line have faced increased scrutiny from labor groups and Apple consumers in the past year — particularly at Foxconn after a rash of suicides at one of its facilities and a deadly explosion at another. Last month, a riot by at least 2,000 workers at a Foxconn plant in the northern city of Taiyuan closed the facility for a day. Foxconn said the riot escalated from a personal dispute between workers.

In 2011, Apple released the names of its suppliers for the first time and submitted to independent labor audits from the Fair Labor Association. Those audits bore out data from Apple’s own reports that many employees were working more than the legal number of hours per week. Investigators from the FLA have visited Foxconn facilities in China and reported that conditions, while still difficult for workers, are improving.

Related stories:

Foxconn plant in China resumes production following shutdown over worker brawl

Foxconn riot in China seen as likely to recur

Foxconn denies vocational students forced to work

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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