Foxconn denies it makes workers sign no-suicide contract

Sheena Goodyear, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:35 AM ET

A Chinese manufacturing company that makes popular electronics such as iPhones denies it makes its employees sign contracts promising not to commit suicide.

Foxconn employs over a million workers in China to make laptops, tablets and smartphones for Apple, Nokia, Dell and HP.

In a report outlining working conditions at the Foxconn factories, the labour group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) alleges the company makes workers sign a contract in which they pledge not to kill themselves and to "treasure their lives."

At least 17 Foxconn workers have committed suicide in the past five years, including 11 who jumped off a Foxconn building, nine between March and May 2010.

Apple and HP both issued statements last year about the suicides. The companies promised to work with Foxconn to improve conditions at the factories.

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

"Foxconn does not ask its employees to sign any such documents, any reports to the contrary are inaccurate," said Ellin Choy, a Foxconn spokesperson.

Foxconn also denies the report's other allegations that employees are overworked, humiliated and underpaid.

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

The report says they earn monthly wages of between $190 to $236, and are often forced -- either by coercion or necessity -- to work between 50 and 100 hours of overtime a month, on top of their 173 regular work hours.

It says employees also complained they're not paid for all the hours they work, they're reprimanded for talking, having cellphones, sitting down or taking breaks, and their bosses humiliate them.

"Foxconn takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our more than one million employees in China a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that are competitive with all of our industry peers," the company said in a statement.

"In all cases, our basic wages are amongst the highest in our industry in each location and they are significantly higher than the government-directed minimum wage which is set based on a review of the cost of living in those locations."

Foxconn says entry-level monthly salary at its Chongqing and Chengdu factories is $201, whereas the minimum wage is $142. In its Shenzhen factory, the starter salary is $231 per month, compared to the $197 minimum wage.

As well, it says 85% of its employees go on to receive 15% salary increases after six months.

Foxconn said it follows the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition's labour rules, which cap overtime at 60 hours per month.

"All overtime is voluntary and workers are not penalized should they choose not to work overtime," the company said.

Asked to comment on the conditions at Foxconn factories, an HP spokesperson said: "HP continues to work closely with Foxconn to improve its global social and environmental performance efforts and help ensure that the rate of progress observed in supplier audits is sustained."

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


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