One of Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) biggest suppliers, Taiwan’s electronics maker Foxconn, has been trying to rehabilitate its image of inhumane working conditions after spate of employee suicides in 2010.
And though Foxconn, with the assistance of Apple, has been improving wages, hours, benefits and conditions, Quartz is reporting that it also may be preventing suicides be preemptively firing employees who show signs of suicidal tendencies.
A 27-year-old former Foxconn employee surnamed Zhang was quoted a report by the Southern Metropolis Daily saying that he was fired after a co-worker saw him taking pills for an unrelated insomnia diagnosis. He was brought to a hospital last week after taking too many pills because it was assumed he was trying to commit suicide. The following day, Zhang lost his job.
The reasons Zhang was let go from Foxconn were not made clear; the official notice was that his grounds for dismissal were his “threat to the company, disrupting the normal management.”
Zhang admitted that he did not follow the doctor’s prescription for his insomnia medication, but insisted he only did so because his dosage wasn’t effective, not because he was attempting an overdose.
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Southern Metropolis Daily contacted the Shenzhen Foxconn media relations office for a comment on the issue but said due to a national holiday last week, no one could confirm or deny the details of Zhang’s firing.
Foxconn continues its battle in China’s state-run and social media to purge its image as a factory with sweatshop conditions and unhappy employees. Even false reports of strikes, like one in Beijing in late January, gain attention on China’s Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo, because they are so easy to believe.
As recent as last week, bloggers on Weibo had claimed that even more Foxconn workers were threating to kill themselves. Foxconn released a statement saying that an incident did occur but no actual suicide attempts were made.
During the height of the scandal in 2010, a reported 17 Foxconn factory employees had committed suicide at various locations over five years, nine of them during March and May of that year. Tim Cook, Apple’s then COO and current CEO, brought two “suicide experts” to one of the factories to assess employees and added on-site health care professionals and large nets to the sides of factory buildings in case of jumps.