Foxconn claims suicidal workers did it for the money

Foxconn's finger-pointing should drive Apple, Dell, HP, and others to ask which overseas partners meet their CSR goals

While critics attribute the recent spate of suicide attempts at Foxconn to harsh work conditions, the company's CEO Guo Tai-ming has a different theory: Some of them did it for the money, according to a report on MIC Gadget, which is why the company has announced it will no longer compensate the families of Foxconn workers who take their own lives.

Tai-ming has found himself in the hot seat in the wake of recent suicides and suicide attempts by Foxconn employees. Meanwhile, Apple has also felt pressure to answer for the working and living conditions at Foxconn, as the hardware manufacturer is responsible for cranking out Apple's coveted iDevices.

[ Also on InfoWorld.com: Bill Snyder looks at the links between suicide, stupidity, and the iPhone | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

Notably, Apple's not the only IT giant to outsource its manufacturing to Foxconn. The company also handles hardware manufacturing for tech leaders such as HP and Intel. The economic benefits of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China are apparent: Employees earn significantly lower wages, and the country has relatively lax labor laws. The legal minimum wage is about $132 per month, and workers are required to put in as many as 15-hour work days.

In an effort to deflect blame for the recent suicides from harsh working conditions, Tai-ming made the case earlier this week to Taiwanese press that at least some workers took their lives to cash in on the company's generous suicide compensation program. As evidence, the CEO brandished what he said was a suicide note written by an employee. The letter, written in Chinese, translates as follows, according to MIC Gadget:

Mom, you always tell me to die, and now I will jump down from Foxconn. I really have to go. You don't have to feel sad: Foxconn will pay some money, and as your son, this is the only way to return you.

Mental illness also played a role, Tai-ming said. According to a survey conducted by a "suicide association" that investigated the suicides at Foxconn, Tai-ming said three of the victims suffered mental illness and eight have emotional disorders. This raises the obvious question of whether the working and living conditions at Foxconn caused or exacerbated those disorders, driving the employees to suicide.

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