Shenzhen manufacturer Foxconn, which has been hit by a spate of workers’ suicides, will transfer management of employee housing to two local real estate companies.
The Taiwan-owned firm, which makes devices for Apple, HP and other foreign tech firms, said it would outsource the housing for nearly 220,000 workers on its Shenzhen campus.
It signed agreements on Friday with Shenzhen CPM Property Management and Kaiyuan Property Management in a ceremony attended by senior Shenzhen city officials.
Ten Foxconn staff have died in suicides since the beginning of the year, prompting some labor activists to describe the plant, with long hours and strict rules, as a “sweatshop.”
Foxconn chief Terry Gou and Apple CEO Steve Jobs have denied this, and Foxconn last month announced three payrises for workers in the plants.
Gou said the suicides were a result of personal problems and encouraged by the compensation packages that the company offered to bereaved families.
Critics said the deal would allow Foxconn to avoid taking responsibility for poor living conditions, the New York Times reported.
“That’s the logic apparel companies relied on 15 years ago when they said ‘it’s not our manufacturing plant so it’s not our problem’ if working conditions are poor,’ ” said Pietra Rivoli, a professor of international business who also wrote “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.”
“But it didn’t work then,” she said. “And I don’t see how this is going to absolve Foxconn of responsibility in the eyes of most observers of the supply chain.”
The suicides have sparked a national debate in China about pay and conditions in the exported-focused factories that have driven the country’s economic transformation over the past 30 years.
While the suicide rate is below the national average, some analysts point out that the expectations of young workers today are vastly different from those of their parents.
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