Foxconn workers forced to sign promise not to commit suicide due to working conditions

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102 Responses to “Foxconn workers forced to sign promise not to commit suicide due to working conditions”

  1. Anonymous says:

    So what will happen if they violate the “no suicide” contract?

  2. Alan says:

    China is more capitalist than the USA. Who would have thunk?

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is OUTRAGEOUS to say that if you buy from Apple, you support this. I guess if that’s the case, all who purchase chocolate support harsh child labor conditions in the processing and harvesting of the cocoa. If this claim that Apple customers support Foxconn is true, then all of you who buy anything from china support conditions like Foxconn has. Don’t be ridiculous. Apple has no control over what Foxconn does. Statements like “buying from Apple supports Foxconn” are ignorance at it’s finest.

    • Pantograph says:

      “I guess if that’s the case, all who purchase chocolate support harsh child labor conditions in the processing and harvesting of the cocoa. “

      Yes. Most of them do. That’s why the Slave Free Chocolate Movement was born. It’s time for slave free electronics.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry but the outrage over this is more than a bit disingenuous. How many of the posters in this forum have done anything to support a LOCAL labor union? How many have *happily* worked the last crunch deathmarch for their startup to ship the next dot-bomb project? How many stay up all night coding their pet projects? None of this to say what the Chinese workers endure isn’t vile and unacceptable to the human condition but it is about reminding people that they have an immediate local responsibility to the guy in the cube next to them and that we, in the tech business are often promoters of our own kinds of sweat shops. Don’t want to buy good produced by exploited workers? Don’t follow any links off Boing Boing. Want to make a *difference*? Organize locally, vote in support of unions and vote to make it tax-expensive for HP, Apple, Sony, Dell, Microsoft, and every-damned-body else to outsource overseas.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This saturday – May 7th – the European project makeITfair organized an international day of action concerning lives of workers around the globe: “Time to bite into a fair Apple”.

    More info:
    http://makeitfair.org/take-action

    • Anonymous says:

      After reading that it’s only about Apple I stopped to care about that day.

      The problem is not Apple – the real problem are the dumb people reading their mail on their Laptop by a major PC manufacturer after making a phone call from their Android phone. And after reading how bad Apple is on your linked webpage, they decide to play a little bit on their Wii. Just to forget how bad the world out there really is.

      Oooops, three products manufactured by exactly the same sweatshop company that makes Apple products. Yet these dumb people pretend to be something better or smarter because they don’t buy from Apple.

      Which also brings us to another problem. There’s no alternative to Foxconn. I really started trying to avoid Foxconn. It’s just not possible. They simply became too big. So probably even if a e.g. Apple would like to switch from Foxconn to someone else it’s not possible. Simply because more or less there’s only Foxconn these days.

  6. Anonymous says:

    How would you go about enforcing such a pile of glurge?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wow. This makes me very glad that I do NOT have (or plan to have) an iPad, iPhone, Macbook, or anything Apple other than an ancient iPod Shuffle. I’m not a diehard PCer – I am a diehard Liker of Having Money in My Wallet. Also a diehard Liker of People Not Committing Suicide Because of Work.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If you’re working overtime, you’re taking others’ jobs!

    If a company needs 11 people, but can have 10 people working 10% overtime, they won’t hire a new employee.

    In France, and most of Western Europe, the worktime is 35-38 hours per week, no more.

  9. Emo Pinata says:

    If you use facebook, amazon, or ebay you’re contributing to this.

    People need to realize that as long as billions of people are on Earth there will always be conditions worse than this, let alone ones similar to US non-unionized manufacturing jobs.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @mn_camera

    “I buy very little in the way of consumer gadgets. And Apple continually represents themselves as somehow “superior” both technically and morally to every other manufacturer, so I single them out.”

    Speaking of people and organizations that represent themselves as morally superior…

    Anyhow, we know Foxconn labor conditions are they way they are—child labor and the like—because Apple themselves produce a yearly “Supplier Responsibility Report,” and make them available (going back to ’07) online here: http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/

    It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where these sorts of labor conditions exist, but it’s a little pathetic to specifically excoriate Apple when out of all the computer companies that use Foxconn labor, they’re the only ones that release this data. Should they be like the others, and just not tell us?

  11. YarbroughFair says:

    They installed nets and now they are proud that they have “successfully reduced workers suicide rates”. They don’t mention attempts.

    just do an image search foxconn nets.

    http://www.tech-ex.net/2010/11/life-at-apples-iphone-factory-outlined.html

  12. skreader says:

    Cory didn’t post a link to SACOM’s report.

    You can find a summary here:
    http://sacom.hk/archives/837

    You can find the full report here:
    http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011-05-06_foxconn-and-apple-fail-to-fulfill-promises1.pdf

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sooo…news flash, china is a scary, evil empire?

    No, that’s old news. I guess not many are fighting tyranny anymore.
    I know I’m not.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “So what will happen if they violate the “no suicide” contract?”

    It strikes me that the point of these contracts my not be to avoid suicides, but to avoid the employer being sued for suicides of its workers.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It’s not Apple’s or Sony’s or Dell’s fault. People are responsible for their own condition. No one can force you to do anything, well at least not without the threat of physical violence. That’s not the case in China. People are being paid horribly low wages and are suffering ever increasing commodity prices. People at these plants could walk off, refuse overtime, or sit-in. The companies that buy their products or material from Chinese manufacturers do so because we demand lower prices. This is a two-way street that could be fixed if we’d (Americans, Europeans) stop lying to ourselves about income inequalities in our own country and lying to ourselves about how inexpensive products should be. People in China need to make a stand for themselves. Not buying these products won’t make a bit of difference. You will want your playstation or smart phone cheap and they are starving for work. Case closed.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think I have ever worked at a software start up where badly performing workers were not subjected to public humiliation in front of their colleagues. Some of them were actually good workers, who got jacked up politically.

  17. j9c says:

    @Faustus #36:
    “What… What is wrong with the world today?
    Na nanana naynaynaynay.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLEK0UZH4cs&feature=related

    Sheesh, I’ve got a dang iPhone. Never gonna look at it again without wondering…

  18. amida says:

    I hope this doesn’t sound overly pedantic or PC, Cory, but Foxconn is a Taiwanese company rather than a “Chinese” one. Their manufacturing is subcontracted out to factories in the mainland. Yes, the PRC claims us as a part of their territory; yes, Taiwan is officially the “Republic of China” and could therefore be called “Chinese”; but for all intents and purposes we are different political entities and in common usage, “China” refers to the PRC and “Taiwan” to the ROC. Some of us over here are a little sensitive about this.

  19. BB says:

    Wow, if only psychologists and psychiatrists would only institute this policy, think of how many lives could be saved. There would be financial savings too; no prescriptions, no therapy. They are really on to something here! All we need are happiness contracts! This will be revolutionary for the mental health care industry.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Foxconn sounds like a right-wing uber-capitalist fantasy camp. Fox News should showcase it.

  21. TenInchesTaller says:

    You guys didn’t have to sign one of these?
    My boss told me everyone did. Huh.

  22. Niagra says:

    I normally work 60 hours a week, which I guess is about 85 hours of “overtime” a month; I also work through the odd weekend if there’s a big deadline to meet. I thought that was pretty normal for a career-oriented person.

    • Anonymous says:

      Like my father always said, the only reason to working that many hours a week for that long, is if you’re working for yourself, otherwise your a chump.

  23. BB says:

    This site is now being wonky, anyone else?

  24. JohnnyOC says:

    To all of you “I work overtime..what’s wrong with them??” attitudes.

    Live in Shengzhen for a 1 year where some of Foxconn is located.

    Just 1 year with regular pay working their typical overtime. In a normal apartment that you can afford with that pay supporting a family.

    I was there visiting in-laws who are considered middle-class by Chinese standards. Hard working people who have a small eatery when people come in.

    As we were walking to a market the absolute devastation and decrepit infrastructure in the area made my jaw drop. I can see the smog starting at the next block.

    You have no idea how good you have it. Really.

    For the comments that why are there no “sit-ins” or strikes, or walk-offs to find something else. There is no real “something else”. It’s a pretty good place to work considering.

    The thing is if we really were concerned about getting other workers in other nations from our own a step up we would want them to get similar pay that what we have.

    But then of course that would mean most likely a 2 to 3x premium on a majority of items that we buy or consume (companies have to get the profit from someone)..and no one is going to go with that, are they?

  25. Daemon says:

    I’m entirely willing to believe the story, but shouldn’t there be a link or something here?

  26. Anonymous says:

    why are these jobs not being handled by robots damnit

  27. eviladrian says:

    http://www.flurb.net/11/11kek.htm

    In Big Store Baoding, employees are not permitted to faint.

    However, since sitting or standing still are also forbidden, and shifts can last up to 12 hours – interrupted only by an Official Urine-Wardrobe Relief Break or a timed visit to the Team Eating Cubicle – it is not unknown for some of my less stoic co-workers to collapse from fatigue or dehydration.

    Unconscious employees are discretely removed by a Tactical Staff Retrieval Team to the Cupboard of Disgrace before their idle behaviour can be witnessed by customers. In Big Store Baoding, the customer is king. Their shopping experience must not be spoiled by the physical failings of lazy, weak-willed, attention-seeking employees.

  28. boehj says:

    They’ve got it easy, My wife used to work at Seagate assembling hard drives. 1 day off a month. Fortnightly alternating 12 hour shifts.

    She gave birth and had to show up to work *that* day. And did.

  29. mn_camera says:

    And if they kill themselves despite signing a promise not to, what then?

    If you buy Apple fetish-objects you contribute to this, you do realize that?

    • joeposts says:

      Perhaps their family members are required to be publicly humiliated in front of their surviving colleagues.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you buy most any product available on the market today, you contribute to this, you do realize that?

    • joeposts says:

      If you buy Apple fetish-objects you contribute to this, you do realize that?

      And if you (well, not you, mn_camera) argue against unionization and wage hikes, you’re responsible for this.

      It’s a race to the bottom and the bottom is pretty far down.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you buy anything remotely consumer electronic, you contribute to this, you do realize this? Foxxcon manufactures for HP, Dell, Cisco, Sony, Apple and many other companies besides.

      Not an Apple issue, it’s a globalization issue.

      • reality hater says:

        I agree it is a globalization consumer driven issue.If we were not brainwashed into “having to have what the Jones’s do” these types of human rights abusing factories would not exist. They are the dark secret of most consumer industries , people were ready to crucify Kathy lee Gifford in the 90′s for her clothing manufacturers, flash forward to a global economy where China makes almost damn near everything we purchase,and its a different story eh? We don’t really seem to mind as long as we can have our I-whatever’s do we…….
        here is something I copied off of the Foxconn website for preparing to interview with them , Funny how one of the last items in the “Predictors for Failure” portion is “Too much emphasis on money and benefits”……really ?

        here are three main steps in the interview process: preparation, the interview itself, and follow-up. Foxconn offers these suggestions for handling each step well, and some predictors of interview success or failure.

        Preparation

        Know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer’s full name and the correct pronunciation, and his or her title.
        Research pertinent facts about the company, such as annual sales revenue, main businesses and products, and locations. A visit to the company’s web site or a short web search often provide this information.
        Be ready to discuss how the job might impact your immediate and longer-term career growth.
        Determine 6 to 10 questions you want to ask in the interview. This will help you understand the company better, and it lets the interviewer know you are serious about the job.
        Review the job description, your resume, and cover letter.
        If appropriate, prepare a portfolio of your best work. This is expected in visual arts, writing, or editing. Programmers can use screen captures, diagrams, and short descriptions of applications or other projects they’ve handled.
        Rehearse answering some questions related to your resume or the career field that you think might be asked.
        The interview

        Wear proper business attire, be enthusiastic, and greet the interviewer by name, with a solid handshake and a smile.
        Wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Sit upright, and look alert and interested. Focus your attention on the interviewer at all times.
        Follow the interviewer’s leads, but try to get him/her to describe the job and duties early, so you can apply your abilities to the position throughout the interview.
        Don’t smoke, even if the interviewer does and offers you a cigarette. Do not chew gum.
        Remember that the interviewer is the mechanism the potential employer uses to determine a “right match.”
        Don’t forget that the interview also is crucial for you to determine whether the job is right for you. It may turn out not to be a good fit.
        Don’t lie, or make unnecessary derogatory remarks about your present or former employers. Limit your comments, if you are asked, to those necessary to adequately convey why you left or are seeking different employment.
        Don’t over-answer the questions, especially if the interviewer directs the discussion into politics or other controversial issues.
        Follow-up

        Within one day, be sure to send a thank you letter to the interviewer. If you were interviewed by two people, send two different letters. If you were interviewed by several people, you can send one letter to the main person supervising the hiring process. Thank him/her for the interview and for the other interviews, and ask that your appreciation be extended to the other interviewers.
        All letters should mention the name of the position and interview date.
        Indicate that you are still interested in the position (or not, if that is the case).
        If possible, mention something you learned or discussed in the interview. Let the interviewer know you can be reached by phone or email, and list your email address and phone number.
        Predictors of success

        Ability to communicate clearly
        Demonstrated teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills
        Career-related work experience
        Knowledge of the hiring organization
        Ask good questions
        Flexibility and enthusiasm
        People skills
        Professional appearance
        Ambitious and motivated

        Predictors of failure

        Lack of qualifications
        Inability to communicate clearly
        Small evidence of prior achievement
        Lack of knowledge about or interest in the organization
        Unwillingness to relocate
        Appear overbearing, overaggressive, conceited
        Too much emphasis on money and benefits
        Failure to follow-up

        SO hey I hear Foxxconn is hiring……,..

    • grimc says:

      Foxconn is also a contractor for Dell and HP, but I guess their customers get a pass because something something.

    • kjulig says:

      Well, suicide is illegal in many places…

      And not to defend Foxconn, not at all, but Foxconn’s suicide rate is a fraction of that of the US, so imagine how miserable life in the US must be.

  30. blueelm says:

    How can people treasure their lives when their lives are not being treated like a treasure?

  31. sarahmayscott says:

    welcome to the global economy and it’s dark, dark underbelly.

  32. jesusio says:

    Well hell. I’ve worked in a fresh frozen plant in Alaska during the early nineties boom. 18 to 20hr days, 4 months straight. I made $7/hr (USD), came home with around $15k. If you got sick, they fired you. I’ve worked at a Sand and Gravel pit where we worked 12hrs a day for 3months straight. I’ve worked at an aluminum foundry where you were humiliated in front of EVERYONE if you fucked up, and it was a point of pride for not breaking. Those were the olden days, and now we have a kinder gentler workplace with anti-bully and harassment laws. China is about 40 years behind the US, in terms of labor laws. They’ll catch up, the workers will have more rights and pay, then Foxconn (any everyone else) will move to Africa and begin a new round of exploitation. That’s what gets you and I cheap products from cheap labor. Feel guilty? Don’t buy their products. “but, but, but…”
    I thought so.

  33. BaylorRugby says:

    Apple Fanboys are the reason for all of our problems.

  34. Chairboy says:

    Go crazy?

  35. tylerkaraszewski says:

    From Wikipedia:

    Clients

    Foxconn makes consumer electronics for a number of well-known companies (The following is an incomplete list):
    Apple Inc. (United States)[16][5][17]
    Acer Inc. (Taiwan)
    Amazon.com (United States)
    Asus (Taiwan)
    Intel (United States)
    Cisco (United States)
    Hewlett-Packard (United States)[18][17]
    Dell (United States)
    Nintendo (Japan)
    Nokia (Finland)[16]
    Microsoft (United States)
    Sony (Japan)
    Sony Ericsson (Japan/Sweden)[17]
    Samsung (Korea)
    Vizio (United States)

    • slk says:

      Oddly enough, those are all companies you shouldn’t be doing business with anyways… what were the odds? And to those of you quoting stats, it’s not particularly about the numbers but the actions.

      And yes, if Apple gave a shit, they could put pressure on their supplier to change its behavior. If all these companies demanded change or loss of business, you better f***ing believe they would change their tune or lose mass revenue. Voting with a dollar has real power.

  36. Anonymous says:

    mn_camera, they probably have a clause in the contract that means if they take their own lives their families get nothing, or something to that effect. Threatens of repossession or whatever. Wouldn’t surprise me having seen this.

  37. Anonymous says:

    sounds like the conditions at a certain financial printing company i used to work for…

    /70+ hours in a week
    /little-to-no lunches
    /csb

  38. mraverage says:

    Back in a former incarnation, i used to fix ships for the MSC in Oakland. When a boat was in, we would work more overtime than that for 5 or 6 months. It would be 76 or 80 hours per week for about 4 months of that with one or two days off per month.

    Hard work, good quality work, and long hours were rewarded – and respected. Maybe that’s what’s missing in China?

    When the boats were finished, we got time off. No one committed suicide. We just did what needed to get done. I could do 36 hours of OT per month standing on my head. We did that in a week. What is this younger generation of wage slaves coming to? Slackers!

    • HDN says:

      I know! I’ve worked 7-12s routinely. Last job friends of mine were working 7-14s. Of course it’s not factory work, and it is unionized, so we’re paid decently for it, with the requisite breaks.

    • Anonymous says:

      They never get a vacation off… I think that is the idea. There is no reward at the end of the tunnel. Could you work overtime for a couple years straight with no extended vacation and 1 or 2 days off a month.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have been working in my industry for the last three years now and our standard is 6 days a week (sometimes I have had to work 6 weeks in a row before I am given these days off) and you get holiday time if you quit, i.e. you have no job so go somewhere.

        I am also a young Canadian working overseas. I share a room with another expat and the room is so small our beds touch. The other dorm rooms have 4 to 12 people in them. What industry is this?

        Hotels, resorts, and dive centres. This kind of living condition happens all over the world and for all types of demand. I tell you, it is very hard sometimes and you do want to quit sometimes. I can feel for the workers at Foxconn. I can attest that they will not be heard if they want to change things.

        If we want to change this, it’s the consumer that needs to be the voice, not the victim. The employers will NOT listen to them.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Give it a few years and US manufacturing, if there’s any left, will be the same way.

  40. Brainspore says:

    I found the Wired feature on this topic interesting. The headlines have all been “Foxconn works its employees to the point of suicide so you can have Apple products” but the reality seems to be a lot more nuanced. The company probably isn’t helping their image by including this kind of thing in their contracts, though.

  41. Jack says:

    You know, this is a side-effect of removing the middle-class from the consumer equation. It too me years to understand why Spalding was the ball every teacher I had in elementary school promoted to kids: The factory was in Brooklyn as well! When you are near folks who are dealing with harsh work conditions you feel it more. No doubt. Now that it’s all done on the other side of the planet by people in another culture it’s truly a magical process.

    Need to bring factories closer to consumers and others to humanize the world.

  42. Rob says:

    I am all for workers rights and welfare, but this doesn’t seem incredibly arduous…

    Isn’t there something like they feed the dead to the living? Aren’t people chained to their desks?

    With 8% of private sector jobs in the US gone, and a million people applying to Mcdonalds, I find it hard to empathize about over 9 hours of overtime in a week.

    • Cook!EMonstA says:

      This is why the Unions have lost ground for the last 50 years. Cause scabs like Rob don’t see the slow erosion of the work place as they think of their own bottom line but no one else’s…

    • el_gallo says:

      I think you mean 24 hours of overtime in a week. 9 hours per week is the legal limit that was violated, not the egregious amount complained about.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am all for workers rights and welfare, but this doesn’t seem incredibly arduous…

      Workers’ rights to what, then? Because apparently not time, respect, uncrowded working conditions, or hair dryers.

      • Anonymous says:

        That sounds quite a lot like the company I work for, except that the overtime we are pressured into working is unpaid. I also live in a developed, western country. we have been progressively de-unionised over the last 20 years or so, and now I find myself in worse working conditions than some Chinese assembly line workers.

  43. el_gallo says:

    China better watch out, or the workers are going to seize the means of production, throw off their capitalist oppressors and institute a dictatorship of the proletariat.

  44. jeligula says:

    I get about 48 hours a week, so that’s 32 hours of overtime a month. Big deal. 9 1/2 – 10 hour days don’t bother me. Why should they? My brother works at the Boeing plant in Everett, WA and he tells me that there are at LEAST two ambulances chasing through the plant due to heart attacks each day. I think that has more to do with an overweight, older workforce than it does overwork, but I do know that they are working my brother to death. Sometimes he works 21 days straight without a day off, but he gets triple time on Sundays and has the option to opt out of overtime, unlike those poor saps at Foxconn. Siot it is very much a choice of his as he really likes his toys.

  45. RyanH says:

    Of course this is just PR. On the other hand, it’s PR that shouldn’t be needed. Every time I read articles about Foxconn suicides it is all breathless about how many of their workers have killed themselves.

    Foxconn employs roughly a million people. A million! The suicide rate in the united states is 11 per hundred thousand. So out of a million people you would expect over a hundred suicides every year in the USA. Foxconn does not have 100 suicides a year but somehow they have a massive problem?

    This is lies, damn lies and statistics. Take an absolute number from a huge group, compare it to an absolute number from a much smaller group and pretend they are meaningful.

    • Miktor says:

      It’s about more than just the suicides, the working conditions certainly don’t seem good, especially not the part with humiliation, for not being effective enough.

  46. piminnowcheez says:

    @mn_camera: Apple continually represents themselves as somehow “superior” both technically and morally to every other manufacturer

    They do not. Apple, Inc. makes an effort to publicly represent itself as superior in customer experience, which is what we should expect from any profit-motivated company, whether it’s true or not. This claim about how Apple represents itself as morally superior is projection on your part. Apple ain’t Steve Jobs, and corporations ain’t people. Mistaking one for the other, with all their differing motivations, is a mistake that oversimplifies a problem that’s worth deeper consideration than “Apple sux.”

    • Counterglow says:

      If that’s true, why are they so anal about aps that could be perceived as “immoral”? Sorry, buddy, but you’re as full of crap as Apple is. They play the morality card all the time. “Buy our sweatshop-made product, but don’t expect to see bare titties on it. Working people to death is OK. Titties are dirty.”

  47. lbigbadbob says:

    This same discussion was up on Slashdot, and it’s worth looking at the actual suicide rate. The article about this in the March issue of Wired says that suicide rate at American colleges is higher than at Foxconn.

    Checking Wikipedia and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, you come up with an attempted suicide rate of somewhere around 88 per 100,000 persons (80 for 18-24 year olds). The rate at Foxconn is somewhere around 36 per 100,000 persons. That’s some admittedly quick and dirty math, but it makes me wonder why we’re so fixated on this place when the numbers don’t seem to indicate that anything extraordinary is going on.

  48. voiceofreason says:

    I created a boingboing account for the sole purpose of responding to this lunacy. Have any of you held a full-time, salaried job in the United States? Because I can tell you of countless jobs as Marketing Manager or Copywriter where I have worked 2-3 days straight with no sleep other than lying my head down on my desk to nap for a bit. Several agencies I’ve worked for have rented hotel rooms nearby so we could work non-stop and then hit the hotel for a quick shower/brief nap. I can also tell you of countless jobs where I worked 90+ hours/week and got paid my SAME STINKIN’ SALARY, regardless of how many hours I worked. At least these people aat Foxconn re hourly employees and thus paid overtime.

    The article sites: “One payslip, seen by the Observer, indicated that the worker had performed 98 hours of overtime in a month.” Are you effen kidding me? That’s 25 hours a week and if they work 40 hours/week, that makes 65 hours/week, which is a reality for most Americans. I’ve worked more than 98 hours in a single week! Again, I was on salary so I was not paid a single penny for my extra effort and hours.

    The article also pointed out that: “Workers attempting to meet the huge demand for the first iPad were sometimes pressured to take only one day off in 13.”

    AGAIN, are you effen kidding me?!?!?! It’s May and I haven’t had one single day off since CHRISTMAS!!!

    Look, I’m not trying to belittle the fact that Apple workers are committing suicide, but it sounds like the percentage is about the same as the rest of the population (therefore, no real cause and effect here and no need for this false sense of outrage.) I’m also a little perturbed by the assertion that these are such horrific working conditions when pretty much anyone in middle management in America works the same hours and doesn’t even get paid for them. If every white-collar worker in America committed suicide because they had to work 13 days straight without a break, we’d have a serious back-log at coroner’s offices around the nation.

  49. Anonymous says:

    “With 8% of private sector jobs in the US gone, and a million people applying to Mcdonalds, I find it hard to empathize about over 9 hours of overtime in a week.”

    Instead of saying “Why should they have it better than I do,” you should be asking, “Why don’t we all have it better than we do?”

    Everywhere in the world, rich people see poor people as nothing but machines to be used for their own further enrichment until they break or fall apart, and then thrown away.

    You know, when workers have a real stake in their collective success, they work hard naturally. But when their reward for busting their butts is nothing more than “you get to keep your job,” while the bosses get to rake in ever higher profits, how can you be surprised that despair results?

    Don’t forget what labor unions were originally supposed to do. They weren’t invented just get higher wages for shorter hours and better working conditions. The idea was to put the workers in control of their own workplaces – give them workplace democracy. That’s the kind of situation in which a good worker would produce truly good work, and lots of it – because he’d directly benefit.

    But where is that ideal now? Gone, long gone, long before the unions began their long decline.

  50. jtegnell says:

    Regardless of who else uses this Foxconn, Apple is a big, big, big company.

    I find it hard to believe, with a concerted effort, they could pressure Foxconn to improve the lot of their workers, and could turn it ultimately into a big PR campaign.

    But they have chosen not to.

  51. mn_camera says:

    @ everyone who brings up the other electronics companies:

    I buy very little in the way of consumer gadgets. And Apple continually represents themselves as somehow “superior” both technically and morally to every other manufacturer, so I single them out.

  52. Phanatic says:

    â–  Excessive overtime is routine, despite a legal limit of 36 hours a month. One payslip, seen by the Observer, indicated that the worker had performed 98 hours of overtime in a month.

    98 hours of overtime. In a month. I’ll grant that’s a lot of overtime. If he’s working a 48-hour week, call it 192 hours straight time a month, and then 98 on top of that? If he’s not working weekends, yeesh, that’s a month of 14.5-hour workdays. That’s hard, is really is, most people won’t work days like that for a sustained period of time unless they’re medical residents. Even if he *is* working on weekends, which if you’re working that much OT you are, then it would take working 12-hour shifts on the weekdays and then coming in for 10-hour days on the weekends. *That* I’ve done, and plenty of other people have too without it being “inhumane.”

    And that’s the article’s outlier. Look at that legal limit. 36 hours a month? Jesus, the unions in this country would strike long and hard if an employer instituted a flat cap of 1.2 hours/day OT. Raise your hand if you’ve never worked more 36 hours a month OT. Now get off the computer and go get a job.

    â–  Workers attempting to meet the huge demand for the first iPad were sometimes pressured to take only one day off in 13.

    Wow. Really? There’s a rush of demand and you’re so busy you have to work through the weekend? That happens so often in every business that it’s a standard joke. And note even the wording: they’re not required to, they’re *pressured* to, and that only *sometimes*. Again, raise your hand if you’ve never worked two weeks off without a break.

    â–  In some factories badly performing workers are required to be publicly humiliated in front of colleagues.

    Okay, this has never happened to me, it’s not really a Western culture thing, outside of British public schools. American schools used to stick poor performers in the corner with a dunce cap, if Andy Capp and other such comics haven’t lied to me, but I guess that’s gone out of style.

    â–  Crowded workers’ dormitories can sleep up to 24 and are subject to strict rules. One worker told the NGO investigators that he was forced to sign a “confession letter” after illicitly using a hairdryer. In the letter he wrote: “It is my fault. I will never blow my hair inside my room. I have done something wrong. I will never do it again.”

    Crowding? And strict rules? In China? Getthefuckouttahere.

    â–  In the wake of a spate of suicides at Foxconn factories last summer, workers were asked to sign a statement promising not to kill themselves and pledging to “treasure their lives”.

    Ah. The suicides. First, if Foxconn has a suicide problem, this isn’t a dumb policy. The “I shalt not kill myself note” is actually a fairly standard bit of psychiatric treatment for would-be suicides, sort of like the suicide hotline phones on some bridges. Maybe it’ll help, maybe it won’t, but the fact that they’re doing it doesn’t demonstrate that they’re inhumane and don’t care about their workers, it demonstrates just the opposite.

    And does Foxconn have a suicide problem? I doubt it. Foxconn’s huge. They’ve got a million workers, 17 of which killed themselves over a five-year period. So that’s a rate of .34/100k/year. China’s overall suicide rate it 6.6/100k/year, so employees at Foxconn are killing themselves at a rate of about 1/20th that of the general population. In *China*. They’re killing themselves at a rate of about 1/30th of the US population. So maybe this policy doesn’t really demonstrate concern for their workers. Maybe it’s just a pointy-haired-boss response to a stupid media panic fed by a general innumeracy amongst the population, I don’t know. But one thing it’s not is inhumane.

    And then there’s this bit:

    Workers claim that, if they turn down excessive demands for overtime, they will be forced to rely on their basic wage: workers in Chengdu are paid only 1,350 yuan (£125) a month for a basic 48-hour week, equivalent to about 65p an hour.

    Holy shit, imagine that. If my employer requests (“demands”) that I work overtime, and I say “No, I’m busy,” (“turns down”), I won’t get paid any overtime (“forced to rely on my basic wage”)? What a bunch of horseshit!

    1350RMB/month, by the way, is double what the average rural dweller in China makes, is an above-average salary for an urban dweller in China, and is more than double the annual per-household expenditure in Chengdu. Maybe that’s why those Foxconn employees aren’t committing suicide very often.

    Look, this is China. I’m willing to accept that appalling human rights abuses go on behind the gates of every factory in the place. But the facts as presented in this article aren’t saying anything than that Foxconn’s a pretty decent place to work if you’re living in China and want to get paid.

  53. Anonymous says:

    For everyone boasting about this not being very much overtime please bear in mind their standard working hours before overimte are 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. An extra fifteen or twenty hours of overtime on top of that in a week is a hell of a lot.

  54. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Comparing suicide rates between Chinese workers and American college students or workers is not very useful. There’s a good chance that the Chinese worker is the primary support for a family. Although that may be true for some in the US, you won’t find many people here supporting their parents/younger siblings/etc. financially. There are many psychological barriers to suicide. Knowing that you’ll leave grieving loved ones is a strong barrier, but knowing that you’ll leave impoverished and grieving loved ones is a stronger barrier.

    • Stooge says:

      Comparing suicide rates between Chinese workers and American college students or workers is not very useful. There’s a good chance that the Chinese worker is the primary support for a family. Although that may be true for some in the US, you won’t find many people here supporting their parents/younger siblings/etc. financially. There are many psychological barriers to suicide. Knowing that you’ll leave grieving loved ones is a strong barrier, but knowing that you’ll leave impoverished and grieving loved ones is a stronger barrier.

      Whatever the explanation for Foxconn workers’ low suicide rate, it clearly isn’t the one you’re talking about: Foxconn makes an ex gratia tax-free lump sum payment equivalent to 6-10 years salary to the families of those who commit suicide. That’s not a barrier to suicide, it’s an incentive.

    • spejic says:

      Not just that, but when you are taking in the suicide rate for an entire population instead of just the full-time working population, you get to include things like the very ill, the very old, and the very depressed or otherwise mentally ill. The people who kill themselves at Foxconn kill themselves because of Foxconn.

    • kjulig says:

      Suicide rates are a bit more complex than you make them out to be (which is why my comparison to the US — intentionally — doesn’t make sense; just wanted to show that citing suicide rates in isolation doesn’t make sense, not even Foxconn’s). It’s not all down to economics. There are poor countries where workers traditionally support large families with insignificant suicide rates and rich countries with high suicide rates. It’s a societal phenomenon and, unfortunately, it’s complicated.

      • kjulig says:

        There are poor countries where workers traditionally support large families with insignificant suicide rates and rich countries with high suicide rates.

        And vice-versa is what I wanted to say ;-).

  55. PeaceNerd says:

    Welcome to the Story of Stuff. http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    When we demand incredibly sophisticated electronics for prices that are not reflective in any way of the amount of labor, transportation, or materials that went into the production of those products… well, we can do it! We can still have those products!

    But… someone has to pay the costs, somewhere along the line, to make it happen. That price is borne by obscenely underpaid labor all along the production chain.

    By rights, these workers own our iPhones. They paid for them. All of these things we have, that we can have so cheaply? Our clothes, and furniture, and media, and technology? It belongs to the poor – it’s up to us to use them for the good of the poor.

  56. double_tilly says:

    I would prefer a 32-hour work week for all who wanted such a thing.

  57. cory says:

    I love how Jobs tries to make it seem OK that the suicide rate is actually lower than usual at Foxconn. The working conditions are still shit, but never mind, the suicide rates aren’t actually that high!

    And this promise statement is actually a symptom of the problem. I don’t see how anyone can see this as good PR for the company. Good PR would be news about how they’ve improved working conditions.

    Bad PR is forcing your employees to sign a statement that they will bury their emotional issues for the good of the company.

  58. gavintree says:

    I did a lot of cray work when I was younger and made what seemed to me crazy amounts of money. When I was eighteen I went to alaska and earned 5 grande in ten weeks canning salmon. I just blew the money living like a bohemian. After I had a kid and wanted to have amore steady income I realized that if I had been a little more serious I could have started a business or something like that with the money. Working in the factory might be just for the freedom to have a few months of lay back time, but it might also be the key move and sacrifice for some of the workers. At the peak of the pink salmon run we worked 3 95 hour weeks in a row. I felt like a hated tird by the time it was all over but was glad to have the money. I don’t feel guilty about my gadgets because I know first hand that selling a chunk of your life can be worth it. I was paid five grande for ten weeks of my life.

  59. Stephen says:

    Articles like this are dangerous and destructive. There are serious problems going on. Writing pieces which claim to report those serious problems but actually make stuff up hurts real people in large numbers.

    1) Foxconn has a lower suicide rate than similar demographics and competitors.

    2) Apple is one of the few organizations with the necessary power doing something to fight these problems: http://images.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/pdf/Apple_SR_2011_Progress_Report.pdf

    3) Apple is one of many Foxconn customers.

    4) So some of the information in this article is comes from sources which have since been shown to be knowingly fraudulent.

    5) Elsewhere, slave labor and other horrible practices are going on. This article trumps reports of those situations because it is glamorous because it is an attack on Apple.

    6) Boing profits from the glamor, because of increased ad sales.

  60. jphilby says:

    Apple’s making plenty of money. They’re able to entertain the notion that they could offer to make less product in order to save lives.

    I suggest that they tell FoxConn that they’ll purchase 20% less units from them for every death. So they’d better do whatever they have to to improve the quality of worker lives or else Americans will have to suffer a supply which is less and less than demand. Then advertise that “offer”.

  61. jim.cowling says:

    It’s all well and good to bemoan the fate of the overseas worker, but would you really be willing to pay more to help them out?

    In truth, I would not. I’m aware of the situation and don’t empathize enough that I would choose to spend more money. To truly improve working conditions, you would have to halve their workweek but double the size of their paycheque, and then double the size of the workforce to make up for the reduced workweek — and increase the size of the workplace to fit all those people in.

    So your labour costs have quadrupled. I’m pulling these numbers out of my ass, of course, but plug in whatever the numbers actually are and I’m probably not too far off.

    What would quadrupling the labour cost do to the price of an iPad? Or a clock radio, or a big box of tangerines? Would you pay it? Would you really?

    And does this make monsters of us? Or just people with finite emotional and financial resources taking a bit of luxury at someone else’s expense? And, dammit, I guarantee that anti-abolitionists made much the same argument in the 1850s.

    So maybe I am a monster. I am disconcertingly able to live with that.

    • travtastic says:

      That’s really tragic and all, but we’re not talking about food, or your only chance to have any fun in life. We’re talking about your electronic toys.

      • jim.cowling says:

        Actually, travtastic, we’re also talking about food. Pretty much the same issues extend to any overseas labour, as I implied (“…or a clock radio, or a big box of tangerines.”) No need to be snotty just because I’m a monster.

        And Faustus, if FoxConn employs a million people and should employ two million at double the overall wage, $6B profit wouldn’t begin to cover it. Thus, the price on the goods would need to increase. And it’s not like you can expect a corporation to decide to reduce profit. That’s prett’near illegal these days.

    • Faustus says:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jan/18/apple-profits-increase-steve-jobs

      Apple announce $6bn in profits.

      The dichotomy between the consumer paying more or the worker getting less is a false one.

      As The Flight Of The Conchords say
      “they’re turning kids into slaves,
      They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers
      But what’s the real cost, ‘cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper
      Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got little kid slaves making them
      What are your overheads? “

  62. Mr. Winka says:

    According to a senior official at Foxconn who spoke on condition of anonymity, “We’re not stupid. We know this looks bad which is why we’re trying to keep suicides to an acceptable level. Besides, Apple won’t pay us blood-covered iPads. By the way, I’m the one who came up with the ‘treasure your life’ campaign. Clever huh?”

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I made this whole thing up.

  63. BrendanBabbage says:

    Do you know what should really -literally- be a “Riot”?

    Making things overseas often costs as much, sometimes MORE than making it lawfully in the USA.

    1. The cost of transport. This alone made up the difference even in the fuel cheap 90s.
    2. Piracy. Namely, the same companies use the same technology to make knock-offs of everything from kids toys to the latest electronics. And these countries GAIN said technology they can then apply elsewhere.
    3. Bribery. The chief of police’s third cousin and everyone up to the local “Genaralismo Sadismo” want bribes (Tea Money) like it’s Haloween every week and they are big kids who’ll throw a tantrum and at least shut down a place if they don’t get their “Candy”.
    4. Piracy. The real kind. Most Asian river pirates make Blackbeard look like Santa Claus.
    5. Official bribery. The “On the books” costs of doing business in other countries.
    —-Note that EVERY other country, especially CHINA, severely restricts outside business most notably the USA’s. Countries that don’t can’t due to US backed dictatorships, like Haiti where they were rioting and eating DIRT even before the earthquake, and the ones that tariff us use those as reason.
    6. Quality loss. Often entire shipments (all that material, energy, $) have to be trashed for one reason or another. Poison pet food, Aqua dots, etc.
    7. The cost of transport. I’ll say that again. Beginning and ending, it makes up the cost.
    8. Piracy (3) This is a hypothesis of mine, one I’m looking into. I bet lots of stuff on the shelves in the USA is pirate goods. I don’t just mean the detritus that ends up the “Dollar Store” that was obviously made for it. I mean, say REAL “Official” action figures, food, cereals, etc. The SAME products with the same quality, company names, price. So much stuff is just “Ordered” by these giant companies I doubt they can find their A–. So, the foreign company if it’s in a crooked deal with some others on the chain can easily make “Extra” product but with slightly different accounting it’ll end up profiting someone else.

    Now, when – long and short – they send some operation overseas and despite no “Socialist” things like sane wages and quality controls on products/conditions, it costs MORE why don’t they close up and go back to the USA?

    Because they get “Tax breaks and subsidies” to send jobs overseas. They get paid from our tax money and since they’ve driven wages so low doing that they BORROW in our names to ensure a profit. The term “Welfare Bum” does the concept no justice. It’s as if a mulit-millionaire curses his power bill and so punches a hole in the side of a dame to get “Free” power from the stream of water. It costs the real generator 9 parts of energy for every 1 part stolen and one shouldn’t have to be an engineer to know that’s not a good idea to do that to a dam.

    This is where we should reach out, ignore the “Left/right” garbage lie and point out; “I’m for a person earning his keep, but how can he compete against tax subsidized slave labor? Our rich elite haven’t earned a DIME they STOLE every cent they earned. We don’t have innovators, inventors at the top, we have entrenched WELFARE BUMS that’d starve in a year or so if they lost their FALSE ECONOMY!!!”

  64. peterbruells says:

    Af far As I know, your number one is already incorrect. Transport by chip is so cheap, shipping the stuff to Germany is more expensive than shipping it within the country. And that’s with the high tax on fuel over here, where a litre of prime gasoline can cost around 2 USD.

    Land transport is and most likely will stay more expensive than land transport.

  65. neurolux says:

    I guess I’m just really lazy. I’d rather live in the wild hunting my own food and building my own shelter with my bare hands than work at place like Foxcomm. I’d probably live just as long.

  66. Anonymous says:

    It seems that all of you ignored all bullet points. In the first one, for example, the point isn’t in number of hours, but in “Excessive overtime is routine”. What is not mentioned, and is VERY important, is:
    - vacations, free days, any kind of day off or rewards, in order to rest (and I kind of “suspect” their conditions are VERY different than yours)
    - economic conditions, salaries, and life cost (which I “suspect” their are VERY different than yours, otherwise the plant probably wouldn’t be in China)
    - one should be very cautious using statistics, and it is a perfect tool for blurring the reality:
    “Checking Wikipedia and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, you come up with an attempted suicide rate of somewhere around 88 per 100,000 persons (80 for 18-24 year olds). The rate at Foxconn is somewhere around 36 per 100,000 persons.” (lbigbadbob). It can´t be compared just like that, because then it would be safe to say that 41% (36/88*100) of suicide attempts comes from Foxconn!!!! Which would be VERY alarming. This is NOT the way to do the numbers.

    Taking the above into account altogether with the rest of bullet points, the situation IS ALARMING. It doesn´t matter where it happens, we are all humans. Where are we really going together, to what future, if there is any? What culture are we leaving behind to our kids? Should I mention other alarming consequences of the modern society, as global warming?
    Did you feel easier when you tried to discard this?
    I am worried. I would like a global mindset change to ocurr. We are too intelligent specie to allow this, finally I have to name it, global autodestruction.

    • el_gallo says:

      But if I can’t dismiss other people’s suffering by covering it up with convenient anecdotes and convincingly innumerate mathematics, then I might feel obliged to do something about it.

      Screw that! I’m goin’ for the feel good, boot strap explanation every time.

    • lbigbadbob says:

      I don’t want my quoting of the suicide statistics to be misconstrued as defending harsh working conditions.

      But it’s important to have context. The context in this case is that you’re more likely to kill yourself if you’re American and go to college, than if you’re Chinese and work at Foxconn. Just like you’re less likely to kill yourself if you play Dungeons and Dragons, more likely to kill yourself if you’re a male, and more likely to attempt to kill yourself if you’re a female.

      Every suicide is tragic, and people are right to point out that the conditions in the Foxconn factories are awful. But when you cite those tragedies as evidence in the context of a broader argument (that conditions at the factories are so bad that people are committing suicide to escape) you have to interpret that evidence in a rational way, rather than an emotional way.

      What I’d be really curious to know is how the suicide rate at Foxconn compares to the suicide rate amongst the Chinese unemployed.

  67. Anonymous says:

    Apple apologists in this thread are sickening. These people have terrible lives which you will never experience, because you’re wealthy enough to afford apple products.

    I hope someone swipes your shit so that you whine about your first world problems on macrumors some more. Nothing disgraces humanity more than the lazy uncaring views of luxury consuming mouth breathers.

    • slk says:

      “Apple apologists in this thread are sickening. These people have terrible lives which you will never experience, because you’re wealthy enough to afford apple products.

      I hope someone swipes your shit so that you whine about your first world problems on macrumors some more. Nothing disgraces humanity more than the lazy uncaring views of luxury consuming mouth breathers.”

      And well said, anonymous person! Apple products are vastly over-priced and quite shitty technology. And Americans who are dumb enough to pay for this expensive devices are “privileged” enough to be disconnected from reality or what life is actually like in China. Not saying due process works well in America, but that doesn’t really exist in China. Worker strikes go a little differently…

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