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Hundreds Threaten Suicide At Microsoft Supplier Plant In China

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A Chinese worker is seen walking through the dormitory area of a Foxconn factory in an industrial district of Foshan City, southern China's Guangdong province on June 17, 2010. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A Chinese worker is seen walking through the dormitory area of a Foxconn factory in an industrial district of Foshan City, southern China’s Guangdong province on June 17, 2010. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

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By William McGuinness

SEATTLE, Wash. (CBS Seattle) — Some 300 Chinese Foxconn employees who manufacture X-box 360 machines said they would throw themselves from their Wuhan, China, plant if demands for lost wages were not met.

China Jasmine Revolution, an activist revolutionary organization with a name borrowed from the Tunisian revolt that set off the Middle East unrest, reported that employees made their demands for a wage increase for 100 employees on Jan. 2.

Management at Foxconn — the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and a crucial link in the supply chains of Apple, Dell, Nintendo and Song — responded with an ultimatum. Employees could quit with one month’s compensation awarded for each year with the plant or go back to working.

Many employees quit, but Foxconn allegedly dishonored the agreement and awarded former employees nothing.

Around 300 workers returned to the plant in an uproar, and staged their protest on the plant’s roof on Jan. 4.

Wuhan’s mayor intervened through hours of negotiations, walking them back from the roof’s edge until 9 p.m. when workers agreed to return to work, according to China.com.

In an email to CBS Seattle, a Foxconn spokesperson confirmed the “workplace incident” occurred but said the workers protested because the company planned to move the workers from one business unit to another on the same campus as a result of shifts in the production line.

“The welfare of our employees is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and that their rights are fully protected. The operational changes that were the basis for this incident are being carried out in accordance with all relevant laws and regulations,” the spokesperson said.

A Microsoft spokesperson wrote CBS Seattle a statement saying, “Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue. We have a stringent Vendor Code of Conduct that spells out our expectations, and we monitor working conditions closely on an ongoing basis and address issues as they emerge. Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors, and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy.” ­

Foxconn came under fire in 2010 when workers successfully committed suicide in a plant that manufactured components for Apple. Then, Foxconn told media that it considered every worker’s life to be valuable while some plants required workers to sign contracts stating that they wouldn’t kill themselves.

Wired magazine was granted access to the factories, which installed nets that would catch anyone attempting to jump.

Touring the Longhua plant in 2011, Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision, said suicide rates among workers in his plants were smaller compared to the country’s and added a country’s suicide rate typically climbs when its GDP does, Forbes reported.

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