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Apple’s new chief visits Chinese factory to hang nets after workplace suicides
The man now running Apple, Tim Cook, had a delicate job last year.
After nearly a dozen workers committed suicide at a contract manufacturing plant in China, he flew to visit the company – and pressured them to improve working conditions.
One move was to hang large nets from the factory buildings.
The visit was revealed by Apple in a report this week. Cook, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, made the trip from California in June.
Details of the visit were contained in the company’s annual survey of contractors and suppliers.
An expert on overseas business said that Cook’s presence on the team was undoubtedly intended to send a significant message.
‘It’s very unusual for someone at that high level,’ said Anna Han, a law professor who advises U.S. companies on doing business in China, told told the San Jose Mercury News.
Apple said Cook’s visit to the Foxconn company in the southern China city of Shenzhen came after Apple leaders were ‘disturbed and deeply saddened’ by the suicides.
Nearly a dozen workers were involved , some of whom jumped from buildings.
The report said Cook was accompanied by ‘two leading experts’ in suicide prevention recruited by Apple.
‘Apple then commissioned an independent review by a broader team of suicide prevention experts,’ the report said.
The team surveyed more than 1,000 employees, reviewed the facts of each suicide and evaluated Foxconn’s response.
This included hiring counsellors for a 24-hour care centre and even attaching large nets to the factory buildings, Apple said.
But the Apple team also recommended the contractor take additional steps, such as increased training and monitoring of staff at the care centre.
Last month a coalition of Chinese environmental groups criticised Apple in a report that alleged the company had not taken responsibility for health and environmental issues at its suppliers and contractors in China.
The coalition cited the use of a toxic chemical, n-hexane, said to have caused nerve damage to workers at a plant operated by Wintek Corp.
In its own report, Apple said it required Wintek to stop using n-hexane after it learned last year that 137 workers had suffered health problems following exposure to the chemical. Apple said it also required Wintek to improve its procedures.