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Apple looking into Foxconn suicides, says it is 'saddened and upset'


As overseas electronics manufacturer Foxconn continues to come under fire for a number of suicides over the last year, Apple has officially commented on the matter and revealed that it plans to carry out its own independent investigations.

"We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn," the company said in a public statement. "Apple is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity. We are in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously."

According to Reuters, Apple went on to say that it has added its own investigation team to carry out independent evaluations of Foxconn to "address these tragic events." Foxconn has come under fire after 10 factory workers are believed to have killed themselves over the last year.

The latest development is not the first time Apple has had to look into Foxconn. In 2006, Apple began conducting a thorough audit of the company's manufacturing plant that created iPods. That came after a newspaper report suggested that workers at the plant were treated unfairly and forced to operate under sweatshop-like conditions.

Apple now releases an annual audit of its overseas partners. Last year's review found that more than half weren't paying their workers valid overtime rates.

But Apple — and numerous other electronics manufacturers — have maintained their business relationships with Foxconn, and the company is believed to be the manufacturer of the next-generation iPhone expected to debut at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 7.

In addition to creating iPhones and iPads for Apple, Foxconn — the registered trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry — is also responsible for products from the biggest companies in the electronics industry, including Apple, HP, Dell, and Nokia. Those companies may use their power to leverage Foxconn into taking further action, Andrew Deng, analyst with Taiwan International Securities, told Reuters.

"It's a crucial issue that Hon Hai has to deal with right away," he said. "If not, Nokia, HP and Apple might cut their orders as pressure against buying their products could be mounting."

Just before the 10th suicide on Tuesday, when a 19-year-old worker who had been with the company just 42 days jumped from a building to his death, Foxconn chairman Terry Gou insisted to reporters that his company is not running a "sweatshop." But the troubles for the company continue to mount, as it most recently issued a letter workers said included a clause saying the company would pay no more than the legal minimum for injuries sustained outside the workplace. Gou later apologized for the letter and took it back, calling the language inappropriate.

Gou also reportedly gave a tour of the Foxconn facilities this week, emphasizing to reporters the worker amenities provided. He showed off an Olympic-size swimming pool, banks, bakeries, and dormitories that the 400,000 employees utilized.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Gou said his company has launched antisuicide measures, including the construction of safety nets around Foxconn's plant to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths. They also brought in academic experts and counselors to talk with employees, invited a group of Buddhist monks to pray for the factory, and established the "Foxconn Employee Care Center."