You are NOT allowed to commit suicide: Workers in Chinese iPad factories forced to sign pledges
Daily Mail Reporter | May 1, 2011
Factories making sought-after Apple iPads and iPhones in China are forcing staff to sign pledges not to commit suicide, an investigation has revealed.
At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories in China have killed themselves in the last 16 months as a result of horrendous working conditions.
Many more are believed to have either survived attempts or been stopped before trying at the Apple supplier’s plants in Chengdu or Shenzen.
After a spate of suicides last year, managers at the factories ordered new staff to sign pledges that they would not attempt to kill themselves, according to researchers.
And they were made to promise that if they did, their families would only seek the legal minimum in damages.
An investigation of the 500,000 workers by the Centre for Research on Multinational Companies and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) found appalling conditions in the factories.
They claimed that:
- Excessive overtime was rife, despite a legal limit of 36 hours a month. One payslip showed a worker did 98 hours of overtime in one month, the Observer reported.
- During peak periods of demand for the iPad, workers were made to take only one day off in 13.
- Badly performing workers were humiliated in front of colleagues.
- Workers are banned from talking and are made to stand up for their 12-hour shifts.
The ‘anti-suicide pledge’ was brought in after sociologists wrote an open letter to the media calling for an end to restrictive working practices.
But the investigation revealed many of the workers still lived in dismal conditions, with some only going home to see family once a year.
One worker told the newspaper: ‘Sometimes my roommates cry when they arrive in the dormitory after a long day.’
She said they were made to work illegally long hours for a basic daily wage, as little as £5.20, and that workers were housed in dormitories of up to 24 people a room.
In Chengdu, working between 60 and 80 hours overtime a month was normal, with many breaching Apple’s own code of conduct with the length of their shifts.
And the investigation found that employees claimed they were not allowed to speak to each other.
Foxconn admits that it breaks overtime laws, but claims all the overtime is voluntary.
Some officials within the company even accused workers of committing suicide to secure large compensation payments for their families.
Anti-suicide nets were put up around the dormitory buildings on the advice of psychologists.
Foxconn said it had faced ‘some very challenging months for everyone associated with the Foxconn family and the loss of a number of colleagues to tragic suicides’.
Spokesman Louis Woo, responding to allegations that staff were humiliated, said: ‘It is not something we endorse or encourage. However, I would not exclude that this might happen given the diverse and large population of our workforce.
‘But we are working to change it.’
He added that employees were ‘encouraged not to engage in conversations that may distract them from the attention needed to ensure accuracy and their own safety’.
Sacom said the company initially responded to the spate of suicides by bringing in monks to exorcise evil spirits.
Leontien Aarnoudse, a Sacom official, told The People: ‘They work excessive overtime for a salary they can hardly live on and are inhumanely treated.
‘Conditions are harsh and they don’t have a social life. Their life is just working in a factory and that is it.’
Demand for iPads and iPhones has soared, resulting in tough targets for workers in Apple factories.
Apple’s supplier code of conduct demands that employees are treated with respect and dignity, but its own audit reports suggest suppliers in China may not meet up to these standards.
The global high-tech product manufacturer made profits of $6billion ni the first quarter of 2011.