Working conditions at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, have long been the center of attention. 1 million Chinese workers build electronics for Apple, HP, Nokia, Palm and Sony at the plant, some are reportedly as young as 12; having to endure long, repetitive work under notoriously harsh conditions. At last count, at least 14 Foxconn workers have committed suicide in the last 16 months.
The plant is now ordering its employees to sign an ‘anti-suicide pledge’, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail. Under the pledge, employees must not attempt to kill themselves, and if they do, their families can only seek the minimum in damages.
A recent investigation at the Foxconn factory revealed that employee overtime was excessively above the legal limit of 36 hours per month. One employee payslip showed 98 hours of overtime in just one month.
During peak periods and major product launches, such as that of the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, employees were only allowed one day off every 13 days.
Workers are banned from talking to their colleagues and must stand for the duration of their 12 hour shifts. Those that perform poorly or break the rules are humiliated in front of the rest of the staff. A spokesman for the factory, Louis Woo, was asked to comment on allegations that the workforce was humiliated:
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.
While translations may vary, an excerpt from Foxconn’s pledge reads:
In the event of non-accidental injuries (including suicide, self mutilation, etc.), I agree that the company has acted properly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, and will not sue the company, bring excessive demands, take drastic actions that would damage the company’s reputation or cause trouble that would hurt normal operations.
Foxconn officials have previously accused workers of committing suicide with the intent of securing large compensation for their families. The factory erected anti-suicide nets around dormitory buildings following advice from psychologists.