Microsoft probes mass suicide threat at China plant

Microsoft probes mass suicide threat at China plant

Beijing (CNN) -- Microsoft is investigating a report that workers at a Chinese plant that manufactures its Xbox game systems have threatened mass suicide in a pay dispute, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the company's Hong Kong office.

CNN has not been able to confirm details of the dispute, but Foxconn, the plant owner, and Microsoft did respond to inquiries.

"Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue," the Microsoft statement said.

A company spokeswoman said the controversy appears to stem from employee grievances over "staffing assignments and transfer policies, not working conditions."

Foxconn -- a Chinese contractor that makes brand-name electronics for companies such as Microsoft and Apple -- would only say that there was a protest at its Wuhan factory and that it was over.

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The firm apparently offered disgruntled workers the option to transfer to alternative production lines or resign, whereby they would receive "all salary and bonuses due, according to length of service," said a Microsoft spokesperson

"After the protest, the majority of workers chose to return to work. A smaller portion of those employees elected to resign."

Foxconn raised workers' pay twice at its factory in Shenzhen in 2010 after a spate of suicides, Chinese state media reported at the time.

"We have a stringent Vendor Code of Conduct that spells out our expectations, and we monitor working conditions closely on an ongoing basis and address issues as they emerge," Microsoft's statement said. "Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy."

After the 2010 suicides at Foxconn, the company said it was taking measures to improve workers' lives, including organizing recreational activities, calling in Buddhist monks to offer spiritual consolation and setting up a 24-hour help line.

Foxconn, one of the world's top electronics manufacturers, also makes products for companies such as Dell, Hewlett Packard and Sony.

It employed at estimated 800,000 employees in China in October 2010.