Back in 2010 a series of suicides hit the headlines at Foxconn, major contractor in China to Apple and a number of other western technology firms. The company is accused of having a ‘stringent military-like culture’ with repetitive work, heavy surveillance and long hours. They had to put up ‘suicide nets’ to stop workers jumping out of the dormitory windows. The story looked damaging to Apple, but it got lost among all the hoopla about the delights of the iPhone and iPad, and seemed to go away.
Now though, it’s back big-time. A quick Google News check today showed major recent reports from the New York Times, The Observer, CNN and many others. It seems to have been sparked off by media coverage of little-known writer Mike Daisey’s monologue on the issue called ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’. An excerpt played on a National Public Radio (NPR) show last month in the US become its most-ever downloaded item.
Corporations should take the early warning more seriously before it becomes a major crisis communications issueThis is a good example of how an issue can be public knowledge for ages and do relatively little serious harm to the company concerned, but then flare up again with much nastier consequences – another example being News Corp and phone-hacking. Corporations should take the early warning more seriously before it becomes a major crisis communications issue, rather than thinking ‘great, we got away with it, it’s business as usual.’ This issue won’t bring Apple to its knees. But with a market valuation of over $400bn, the company has a lot to lose.