Chinese Xbox workers threatened suicide over jobs
DOZENS of Chinese workers assembling Xbox video game consoles climbed onto a factory dormitory roof, and some threatened to jump to their deaths in a row over jobs, it has been revealed.
The dispute was settled but highlighted growing labour unrest as China's economy slows.
The dispute boiled over after contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group said it would close the production line for Microsoft's Xbox 360 consoles at its plant in the central city of Wuhan and transfer some workers to other jobs.
Workers said Foxconn initially offered severance pay for those that wanted to leave rather than be transferred, but then reneged. Foxconn said transfers were offered, not severance, and only to some workers.
The workers climbed to the top of the six-storey dormitory and threatened to jump before city officials persuaded them to return to work. They said up to 200 people were involved in the strike and photos posted online showed dozens of people crowding the roof of the concrete building.
"Actually none of them were going to jump. They were there for the compensation. But the government and the company officials were just as afraid, because if even one of them jumped, the consequences would be hard to imagine," said Wang Jungang, an equipment engineer.
The row is the latest labour trouble to hit Foxconn, part of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co that makes iPads and iPhones for Apple as well as Xboxes and other gadgets, helping consumer electronics brands hold down costs.
Its massive China plants are run with military-like discipline, which labour rights activists say contributed to a spate of suicides in 2010.
Strikes have risen in recent months across China as factories cope with rising costs, scarce credit and declining orders from Europe, the United States and domestic companies.
After the rooftop protest, Microsoft said in a statement that it investigated, finding that the dispute centred on Foxconn's staffing and transfer policies, not working conditions. "After the protest, the majority of workers chose to return to work. A smaller portion of those employees elected to resign," the statement said.