Computer giants Dell and Hewlett-Packard said yesterday they were looking into conditions at a Chinese factory owned by a Taiwanese supplier following the deaths of 11 workers in apparent suicides.
The statements came a day after Apple said it was investigating the situation at Foxconn's vast plant in the southern city of Shenzhen, which has raised concerns over how workers are treated there and in factories nationwide.
Foxconn - under pressure to respond, with the latest suicide coming after a visit by the group's chairman to Shenzhen to show his concern - reportedly plans to relocate staff to western China, where they would be closer to home.
"We're investigating the reports. Any reports of poor working conditions in Dell's supply chain are investigated and, if warranted, appropriate action is taken," Dell spokeswoman Sharon Zhang told reporter.
"We expect our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities."
An HP spokesperson said: "As with all concerns that are raised about our suppliers, HP is investigating the Foxconn practices that may be associated with these tragic events."
Activists and employees have said the estimated 300,000-400,000 workers at the plant, which assembles Apple's top-selling iPhone, face long hours, low pay and heavy pressure.
On Wednesday, an Apple spokeswoman said the company was "deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity."
China's official Xinhua news agency, quoting a witness, said a man jumped to his death at the giant Shenzhen complex late Wednesday, and that police had confirmed it was a suicide.
The death brought the toll of apparent suicides at the Shenzhen site this year to 10, with another death reported at a Foxconn plant in northern China. Two other employees sustained serious injuries in similar falls.
Officials at Foxconn, which is owned by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision, were not immediately available to comment yesterday about the latest suicide.
During a trip to Shenzhen on Wednesday, Hon Hai's chairman Terry Gou publicly apologised for the deaths but defended the company's labour practices, saying some of the suicides may have been linked to personal problems.
The factory complex, which is a virtual city-within-a-city, boasts banks, bakeries, a 24-hour market, gurgling fountains and even an acupuncturist.
Foxconn is urging workers to sign contracts promising not to kill themselves, according to media reports which also said employees must agree to go to psychiatric institutions if their mental health turns "abnormal."
The company was also said to be hanging safety nets around buildings at its sprawling factory.
In Taiwan, media outlets reported that Foxconn was planning to move some facilities to the west of China so that workers - many of them migrants in their teens and 20s - could remain closer to their families.
"We will let young people return to their hometowns to work so they can feel the warmth of home," Gou said after meeting a visiting delegation from southwest China's Sichuan province, the Economic Daily News reported.
Hon Hai plans to invest tens of billions of Taiwan dollars (hundreds of million U.S. dollar) in northwest China and transfer around 80,000 workers back to Sichuan, said the Commercial Times, citing unnamed sources.