Graduate commits suicide after being forced to work three months without a day off

A twenty four-year-old university graduate working at a moldings factory in the Houjie district of Dongguan jumped to his death from his fourth floor dormitory after being refused time off work by management, the Guangzhou Daily reported.

Before jumping on the afternoon of 21 July, the graduate, Liao Shikai, wrote a suicide note (遗书) which stated:

I started work at this factory in December last year. From April up until today, I’ve had to work overtime everyday without one day’s rest. I am very tired. There is nothing happening at the factory today and I really want some time off but the foreman did not agree and we got into a fight. This factory really drives people to their deaths. It is Liqun Moldings Factory that has killed me.

A spokesperson for Liqun confirmed that Liao was in an agitated state that morning but that his request for time off had been refused because there was work to be done, the Guangzhou Daily said. The spokesperson also confirmed that Liao had been working in excess of ten hours a day.

Liao’s suicide occurred in the same week as the suicide of 25 year-old Sun Danyong, an employee at Foxconn in Shenzhen, who jumped to his death after being interrogated over a missing iPhone prototype. Sun’s death prompted extensive international media coverage largely because Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple. And on 28 July, the Taiwanese-owned company agreed to pay Sun’s parent’s a lump sum of 360,000 yuan in compensation, plus 30,000 yuan a year for the rest of their lives.

The Houjie Labour Department is currently handling Liao’s case and has arranged mediation talks between the company and Liao’s family. They are unlikely however to receive such a generous payment.

Excessive overtime and work pressure has led to a disturbingly high number of suicides among China’s workforce over the last few years. Within a space of nine days, for example, two employees at Huawei Technologies, adjacent to Foxconn in Shenzhen, jumped to their deaths in March 2008 after working excessively long hours at the company.

And as the economy starts to pick up again in China, there is a real danger that companies will once again start to push their employees harder and harder in order to fulfill new orders.
[ posted 29th of July on China labor bulletin]

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