Who's that Girl?


Raises and Safety Nets Will Not Prevent Suicide

Originally posted: June 1, 2010 on TrishMcFarlane.com

I spent some time on Sunday morning catching up on reading articles in my GoogleReader and came across a disturbing story.  So disturbing that I read several stories about the situation in order to learn more.  The story was about a tech company in China called Foxconn Technology Group.  This is the largest electronic contractor of products like the iPhone and other electronic gadgets by Apple, HP, Dell, and Nokia, to name a few.  The article on MSNBC.com told about the rash of suicides they have experienced this year at the company.  Ten employees successfully committed suicide and three were attempts.  They had another handful at some of their factories in other parts of China.

Oddly, many of the suicides were employees who have been with the company six months or less.  And, while they almost certainly had other problems, the work environment is being cited as the leading factor that led to the suicides, all of which took place at work.  Foxconn is reported to be a work environment that appears to be good (company swimming pool, tree lined paths inside the compound, etc.), however, the manufacturing lines move too fast and the goals are almost unreachable.  The employees work at least 12 hours a day and bring home the equivalent of about $130 per week.  It’s deplorable.

So, what is a company to do when something like this happens?

Throw money at it.  Oh, and some safety nets around the building since most of the suicides are jumpers.

Yes, it seems that the employees will all be given a raise of 20%, on average, and they are being asked to sign a document that promises that they won’t commit suicide.  Really?  Foxconn management must be kidding.

While a raise will be nice for these underpaid workers, that certainly will not solve the problem.  I am sure that the overall working conditions contributed to the mass suicides.  Why don’t they talk about reducing the number of hours worked in a day or the speed of the production line?  Why don’t they address employees needs?  With China’s economy in trouble as it is with a shortage of workers, you’d think that organizational leadership would be looking at ways to both attract and then retain good workers.

What do you think?  Do you think a raise will be sufficient to stop the suicides at Foxconn?  What other options do they have that will create a culture where suicide is not thought of as an option?  Let me know in the comments.

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