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China iPhone workers at Foxconn hold rallies in wake of suicides

China's besieged Foxconn, a major manufacture of iPhones and other electronics goods, held rallies in Shenzhen, China, Wednesday to boost worker morale after at least 12 suicides this year.

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Foxconn workers shout slogans during a rally to raise morale at the heavily regimented factories inside the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, south China, Guangdong province, Wednesday August 18, 2010. Following a string of suicides at its Chinese factories, Foxconn Technology Group raised workers' wages and installed safety nets on buildings to catch would-be jumpers. Now the manufacturer of the iPhone and other electronics is holding rallies for its workers to raise morale at the heavily regimented factories.

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

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Young Chinese workers who normally spend their days assembling iPhones and other high-tech gadgets packed a stadium at their massive campus in Shenzhen, China, Wednesday.

They waved pompoms and shouted slogans at a rally to raise morale following a string of suicides at the company's heavily regimented factories.

The outreach to workers shows how the normally secretive Foxconn Technology Group has been shaken by the suicides and the bad press they have attracted.
"For a long period of time I think we were kind of blinded by our success," said Louis Woo, special assistant to Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn's parent company in China. "We were kind of caught by surprise."
The company has already raised wages, hired counselors and installed safety nets on buildings to catch would-be jumpers. Other changes include job rotation so workers can try different tasks and grouping dorm assignments by home province so workers don't feel so isolated.

However, Woo acknowledged there will be challenges in preventing such tragedies in a work force of 920,000 spread across 16 factories in China, all of which are to have morale boosting rallies. Woo said he expected the company will grow to 1.3 million workers in China sometime next year.
"No matter how hard we try, such things will continue to happen," he said.

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