Foxconn Suicides: Eh, They’re “Below Average,” says Apple CEO

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It’s difficult to ignore the recent slew of suicides at Apple’s Chinese manufacturer Foxconn. Apple released the following statement last week after the ninth Hon Hai worker jumped to their death.

“We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn,” the Apple statement said. “Apple is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity.”

“We are in direct contact with Foxconn senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously.”

It was revealed shortly after this statement was released that another Hon Hai worker had jumped from a company building in January bringing the total to 10 for this year.

For whatever reason, Steve Jobs has taken a liking to exchanging e-mails with strangers over the last few months for better or worse. The following is an exchange with Jay Yerex that was first reported by

Yerex managed to goad Jobs by forwarding an e-mail campaign from LabourStart that said:

“As many of you will be aware, the Apple iPad (pictured) had its world-wide launch this weekend.

What you may not know is that the factory which produces it, in China, has been the scene of a dozen worker suicides in recent months.

We’ve been asked by unions and NGOs in Hong Kong and Taiwan to launch a big international campaign to put pressure on the factory owners — and on Apple — to probe why this is happening, and to allow workers there to have real, independent unions that can bargain collectively.

Please take a moment to send off your message now.

And please — spread the word!

Thanks very much.”

Below that Yerex added his own two cents:

Apple can do better!
Sent from my iPhone”

To which Jobs replied: “Although every suicide is tragic, Foxconn’s suicide rate is well below the China average. We are all over this.”

Below average, huh? Fake Steve Jobs aka Dan Lyons put it best earlier when he said:

“But, see, arguments about national averages are a smokescreen. Sure, people kill themselves all the time. But the Foxconn people all work for the same company, in the same place, and they’re all doing it in the same way, and that way happens to be a gruesome, public way that makes a spectacle of their death. They’re not pill-takers or wrist-slitters or hangers. They’re not Sylvia Plath wannabes, sealing off the kitchen and quietly sticking their head in the oven. They’re jumpers. And jumpers, my friends, are a different breed. Ask any cop or shrink who deals with this stuff. Jumpers want to make a statement. Jumpers are trying to tell you something.

Also, consider this. Walmart has 1.4 million employees in the United States. Can you remember a time when 10 or 15 Walmart workers jumped to their deaths from the roofs of Walmart stores over the course of a few months? Have you ever heard of Walmart asking employees to sign a no-suicide contract, or putting safety nets up on all of its buildings? If this did happen, would you think maybe something is going on at Walmart? Or would you just say, well, 10 or 15 people out of 1.4 million is still waaaay below the national average?”

The rest of the exchange between Yerex and Jobs went something like this:

Yerex: “What does “we are all over this” mean? As in investigating? Or who cares? I switched a few years ago from PC to mac. In fact when I was fired for trying to start a union, I bought my first Mac. I always thought Apple was socially responsible. I’m even giving up smoking to be able to afford an IPad. I may have to reconsider. Especially if you are over 12 deaths.”

Jobs: You should educate yourself. We do more than any other company on the planet: Apple – Supplier Responsibility

Yerex: “I have. Which is why I have always purchased apple products and admired you. It was the comment “we are all over this” that I found either confusing or offensive.”

Jobs: “It’s an American expression that means this has our full attention.”

[via Fortune]