Foxconn forced staff to sign 'no suicide' pledge

Employees at Foxconn facilities in China, used to manufacture the iPhone and iPad, were forced to sign a pledge not to commit suicide after over a dozen staff killed themselves over the last 16 months.

Probes into conditions at the factories revealed that the company forced staff to make written promises not to top themselves after 14 workers commited suicide and several others survived similar suicide attempts in Foxconn's facilities at Chengdu and Shenzhen.

The revelation is the latest in a series of findings about the treatment of workers at Foxconn plants, where staff often work six 12-hour shifts a week, 98 hours of overtime in a month, and live in dormitories that look and feel like prison blocks.

The Centre for Research on Multinational Companies and the human rights group Students And Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) have accused Foxconn of treating workers like machines.

One worker spoke of how the factories had to keep pumping out the iPad around the clock, so much so that staff were required to work seven day weeks, as much as 12 hours more a week over Apple's own code of conduct for maximum work hours, which is set at 60 hours a week.

Foxconn has denied that the insane hours were to blame for the suicides, with one cruel executive even going as far as to say that some victims were attempting to get compensation for loved ones.

After intense international media scrutiny and investigations, Foxconn attempted to end the spate of suicides with the introduction of nets around dormitory buildings and bans on equipment like hairdryers and kettles that might be used in a suicide attempt. The company even brought in monks to exorcise evil spirits which they believed led to the suicides, instead of addressing the paltry working conditions that were really to blame.

This heavy-handed approach has only added to the misery of many workers, who get as little as $5 a day for their long labour. If that were not enough, four Foxconn employees were recently arrested over allegedly leaking the iPad 2.

Despite its lucrative deals with Apple and other top technology firms, Foxconn made a loss of $218 million in 2010, with a 10 per cent wage increase to its beleagured staff a likely factor.