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Global Electronics Factories In Spotlight -- Occupational Health & Safety

Aug 04, 2010

Recently, a model of genuine worker participation has surprisingly emerged in China.

By Garrett Brown

Brand-name and contract electronics manufacturers have been rocked this year by a series of ongoing scandals about working conditions in the Asian plants that work day and night to produce the vast majority of the world’s consumer electronics. The worker suicides and cancer cases have called into question the effectiveness of electronics brand's elaborate 'corporate social responsibility' (CSR) programs, their contradictory business model, and the near-zero participation by workers in factory health and safety programs.

In the first five months of 2010 at Foxconn Technology Group's giant 300,000-worker electronics assembly plant in Longhua, China, 16 workers had attempted suicide by jumping off the top of tall dormitory buildings, resulting in 12 deaths and four crippling injuries, and at least 20 other workers were restrained before committing suicide. All workers were between 18 and 24 and were migrants from rural areas of western China. By the end of May 2010, at least 49 young semiconductor workers had contracted cancer -– including 32 brain, leukemia, and lymphoma cancers -– while working at Samsung’s huge electronics plants throughout Korea. Nineteen deaths have occurred, mostly to workers in their 20s. Samsung denied the cancers were work-related, but a Korean magazine reprinted an internal Samsung handbook outlining the use of at least six carcinogens at its plants, including arsine, benzene, and trichloroethylene...

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