Apple, as well as a number of its Far East manufacturing partners, have repeatedly taken the heat in recent years — as they’ve repeatedly buckled under the pressure of intense media and public scrutiny in regards to the alleged substandard working conditions provided for those employed by the firms, themselves.
And although the Cupertino-company, in particular, has taken a plethora of steps in recent years to ensure the utmost integrity and worker safety in the factories owned and operated by its component and device manufacturers around the globe, unfortunately another set of recent deaths are now casting a gloomy, overshadowing doubt on the situation.
The two deaths, which both took place just last week, were unrelated, according to Reuters. However, they’re still merely the latest in a long string of factory-related deaths that have transpired at Foxconn’s iPhone manufacturing plant in (and around) Zhengzhou, China.
In one instance, The Wall Street Journal reported, a man who worked on the end stages of the iPhone assembly line committed suicide — by walking up to the top floor of the manufacturing plant, and then abruptly jumping to his demise. In the other, a woman who worked at the plant, but was only in the process of traveling there to start her shift, was struck by an oncoming train while she unsuccessfully attempted to cross a closed off portion of the train tracks to get to the other side.
It’s important to note, of course, that in neither of these instances is it able to be determined if working conditions — or any unreported deficiency therein — were responsible for the deaths, however, Foxconn, and particularly Apple, have both faced a heaping dose of criticism about the sub-par working conditions in its factories.
Apple issued the following statement in the wake of the recent tragedies: “We constantly monitor working conditions to ensure that they meet our strict standards, and we will investigate the incidents in Zhengzhou.”
Added Foxconn in a separate statement: “Facilities in Zhengzhou and throughout our supply chain offer employee assistance programs, designed in conjunction with Apple and available to every worker, to provide access to social services and counselors whenever needed.”
What’s most alarming about these deaths, unfortunately, is the fact that they follow a relatively long string of similar deaths. For instance, just last year, another Foxconn worker at the same Zhengzhou facility also committed suicide, according to a Chinese-based labor rights group. And that death just so happens to follow a slew of other suicides that have taken place in the manufacturing plants of Apple’s Far East supply partners within the last six years.
Many of these deaths are believed to have been in some way related to the notoriously awful working conditions reported by production line employees. However, Apple, for its part, has since outlined and enforced a strict set of moral and ethical guidelines that its manufacturing partners must adhere to in order to maintain their status as a partner.
In other words, I suppose you can say there’s a thin silver lining to this story, even though the end is likely not over for either Apple or Foxconn.
What do you think about these recent deaths? Let us know in the comments.