Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world’s largest manufacturing services provider, has confirmed the deaths of more of its employees in China. Although the deaths were reported to not be work-related, Hon Hai’s past history of worker abuse keeps the company in the spotlight.
Hon Hai has a long-standing relationship with consumer electronics giant Apple Inc. Last year, Apple, which prides itself on its own ethical practices, found itself embroiled in the highly publicized scrutiny of Hon Hai’s labor practices. Apple paid for a third-party labor watchdog agency, the Fair Labor Association, to inspect Hon Hai plants, and the Taiwan-based company (which conducts business under the name Foxconn Technology) has made efforts to improve worker conditions.
The latest review, which was conducted in January, found Hon Hai complied with 98.3 percent of the 360 action items it and Apple agreed to after the FLA's initial investigation last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. These included items such as the factory's intern policy, protection from excessive heat and the construction of more fire escapes and toilets. In the latest review, Foxconn met 70 of the 76 items that were pending as of mid-2012.
Hon Hai confirmed to the Wall Street Journal three more people associated with the company have died in China, although none of the reportedly fatalities occurred on any of the manufacturer’s worker campuses. Hon Hai has been under scrutiny over the past five years for its labor practices after a spate of high-profile suicides and accidents at its factories. Hon Hai has sought to improve worker conditions and implemented suicide-prevention measures to meet the criticism of labor groups. The workplace efforts have added to the company's labor costs.
Over the past two years, Hon Hai has raised wages several times at its plants across China. Hon Hai is not alone in facing calls for better treatment of workers and better pay. Efforts to improve labor conditions as well as economic challenges in China are contributing to increased labor costs which are prompting many foreign manufacturing companies to consider repatriating facilities closer to home.