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Another suicide at Apple's Chinese supplier

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Yet another employee of the world's largest electronics assembler - Foxconn, maker of products for Apple, HP, and others - has has killed herself.

The Associated Press reports that the 24 year-old woman's death brings the total of suicidal Foxconn workers to eight for the year. Bloomberg puts the total at six. The Taipei Times notes that two other Foxconn employees tried to take their own lives this year, but failed.

Perhaps most famously, Foxconn was the employer of the young engineer Sun Danyong who leapt to his death after being allegedly roughed-up by Foxconn security in their search for a misplaced Apple iPhone 4G prototype - a fate that makes the experience of Gizmodo's Jason Chen and his purloined iPhone 4G rather tame.

The most recent suicidal Foxconn worker, identified only by her surname of Chu by the Associated Press and as Zhu by Bloomberg, leapt from her apartment block on Monday in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, site of a 300,000-worker Foxconn factory. Her death came one day before Foxconn's holding company, Hon Hai Precision Industry, announced record revenues for the month of April, "mainly thanks to solid shipment of iPad to Apple," according to the China Economic News Service.

Hon Hai issued a statement saying that they had been informed by local police that the woman's suicide had been prompted by "personal matters," but the company has been targeted in the past for employee abuses. For example, in 2006, Apple sent an "audit team" to an unnamed iPod manufacturer - presumably Foxconn - to investigate allegations of employee abuse. Although the resulting report generally exonerated the company, Apple did find abuses in the amount of time employees were forced to work, and the company vowed to keep an closer eye on its suppliers in the future.

In response to this latest suicide, the AP reports, a Foxconn spokesperson issued a statement saying that the company's treatment of its workers is "world class." Foxconn's website also boasts that it was named "Best Company to Make Employee Feel Blessed" in 2006 by Taiwanese jobs website 104 Job Bank, and was judged to be among the "Best Employers in China" in 2006 and 2005 by ChinaHR.com.

Those plaudits aside, it appears clear that some of Foxconn's record revenues might well be spent on another audit team to review conditions that inhibit what the 2006 Apple report called "a healthy work-life balance." ®

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