Connect to share and comment

Microsoft investigating claims that Chinese workers threatened suicide

300 workers stood at roof's edge after a promised severance package never came. Foxconn, manufacturer of Apple, Sony, and Microsoft products, has patchy record on worker conditions.

Foxconn employees threaten suicideEnlarge
Clothes hang from the balconies of Foxconn employees at the company's campus during a rally in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on August 19, 2010. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Microsoft is investigating claims that Chinese workers at a plant that manufactures Xboxes threatened to kill themselves over poor working conditions. "Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue," the Microsoft statement said, according to CNN.

More from GlobalPost: Silicon sweatshops: Foxconn refutes accusations

The Want China Times said 300 plant employees stood on the edge of the roof until the mayor of Wuhan intervened and convinced them to step down.

The paper reported:

They were told either quit their positions with compensation or keep their jobs and receive no additional payment. Most employees took the first option, but the company terminated the agreement, and none of them were given the money they were promised.

Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer that makes products for Apple, Microsoft, and other companies, has been rattled by protests, explosions, and suicides at its factories in the past. Worker protests from inside China indicate that there is high pressure on parts manufacturers to keep costs down. One report by Bloomberg showed that as Apple’s profits shot up over the past decade, Foxconn’s have been flat. "Hon Hai [Foxconn] is willing to sacrifice margins so it can get volume and scale,” said Vincent Chen, a Taiwanese financial analyst, according to Bloomberg. “Apple is also getting so large that it needs a supplier that can provide such scale."

More from GlobalPost: China: Steve Jobs' death doesn't absolve Apple (VIDEO)

Perhaps to combat the pressures it faces to keep worker conditions high, Xinhua reported that Foxconn plans to replace a portion of its human workforce with 1 million robots over the next few years in order to increase effiency. The news agency, which is the official mouthpiece of the government in China, said Foxconn has been criticized for "tough" working conditions and that the company employs 1 million mainland Chinese.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/120111/microsoft-investigating-claims-chinese-workers-suicide