Foxconn makes employees promise not to commit suicide: Report

 QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:51 AM ET

Suicide is such a problem at Foxconn manufacturing plants in China, the company makes employees sign a contract promising not to kill themselves, according to new report.

Foxconn is hired by big-name companies like Apple, Nokia, Dell and HP to produce laptops, tablets and smartphones.

The labour group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) interviewed employees at Foxconn plants in Chengdu and Chongqing, where they make iPads and HP laptops, as well as flagship plants in Longhua and Guanlan in China's Shenzhen region.

The group alleges it uncovered terrible working conditions, including extremely long hours, harassment, few breaks and low wages.

The news comes more than a year after Foxconn -- with the backing of Apple and HP -- promised to improve conditions at its factories, which have seen at least 17 suicides in the past five years, including 11 who jumped off a Foxconn building, nine between March and May 2010.

In the wake of the suicides, the company allegedly had employees sign a statement promising not to kill themselves and to "treasure their lives."

The problem is so widespread Foxconn plants have put up nets around the buildings' edges to catch jumpers.

SACOM interviewed 120 Foxconn employees, frontline workers and middle-management types, approaching them either as they left the plants or at their work-living communities.

Workers told SACOM they work between 50 and 100 hours of overtime a month, on top of their 173 regular work hours. Labour laws in China cap monthly overtime at 36 hours.

The employees admitted the overtime is voluntary, but they said it's necessary to earn a liveable wage.

Monthly wages, prior to March, ranged from $140 to $170. Currently, they range from about $190 to $236.

Foxconn has boasted about the salary increase, but SACOM says it's not really a raise because the company no longer subsidizes employees' food and housing.

What's more, the company is notorious for underpaying workers and writing it off as human resources errors, workers said.

"I take care of about 100 workers in the production line. Every month, I have to report about 50 cases of underpayment to the human resources department," a frontline supervisor in Chengdu told SACOM.

Employees also said they aren't permitted to talk at work, carry a cellphone or sit down on the job.

If they slack off, their bosses will humiliate them, forcing them to write confession letters and read them aloud in front of other workers, SACOM alleges.

Foxconn, Apple and HP have not yet responded to QMI Agency's request for comment.

As for the workers' thoughts about the big companies they make electronics for?

"I never dreamed that I will buy an iPad. It may cost me two months' salary. I cannot afford it.  I come from a village to sell my labour at Foxconn, all I want is to improve the living conditions of my family," a 24-year-old worker said.


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