Foxconn: Workers in Chinese iPad Factories May Not Commit Suicide

We’ve alerted you before about issues of e-waste, and electronics workers developing cancer and other illnesses from exposure to the toxic chemicals that go into our phones, laptops, and other electronics.  But these aren’t the only issues surrounding electronics production.

In just over a year, a spate of suicides have occurred at the Foxconn factories that make Apple iPads and iPhones in China.  At least 14 workers at Foxconn have killed themselves, presumably prompted by the horrendous working conditions in the company’s factories.

How horrendous? An investigation of the 500,000 workers by the Centre for Research on Multinational Companies and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) found workers subjected to excessive overtime beyond the legal limit, endless back-to-back shifts, and dormitories that feel like prison blocks.  Workers are not allowed to talk, are forced to stand for their 12-hour shifts, and are humiliated in front of their colleagues if they “perform badly.” Conditions in the factory violated Apple’s own voluntary “code of conduct,”

In response to the suicides, Foxconn officials accused workers of committing suicide to “secure large compensation payments for their families.” To keep their ungrateful workers from taking advantage of the poor company, Foxconn forced their employees to sign pledges stating that they would not attempt to kill themselves. The pledge went on to bind the workers families to no ore than the legal minimum in damages if a worker brazenly ignored the pledge and killed him or herself anyway.

While workers at Foxconn are barely paid living wages, according to Forbes, “Apple’s brand value over the past year soared 84% to $153 billion, as a result of meaningfully differentiated products like the iPad and iPhone 4.” Apple made profits of $6 billion in the first quarter of 2011.

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