iPhone, iPad Factories Still Have Inhumane Conditions, Report Says

Let’s see, is this where I’m supposed to believe that old freemarket capitalism line about how much better off these Chinese workers are because they have jobs? It’s better than nothing, right?

I think that becomes a pretty difficult line to hold if the workers are committing suicide en masse because of nightmarish working and living conditions. I don’t know about you, but the “improvements” such as anti-suicide nets outside of windows don’t do much to calm my anger about this story.

I don’t have an iPhone or iPad, but I own or use a couple Apple computers. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were manufactured under similar conditions though I profess to having no knowledge on the subject.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but that doesn’t eliminate our complicity in unethical structures such as this, however unintended it may be.

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By Zaid Jilani, Think Progress
Posted on May 10, 2011, Printed on May 10, 2011

Back in March, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) astoundingly claimed that the iPad and iPhone are “built in the United States of America.” This news must have been a great surprise to the Chinese workers who work for Taiwanese-based manufacturing giant Foxconn, which is notorious for the poor conditions at its factories and the wave of suicides at its plants.

After much of the international media covered the abuses at Foxconn’s factories, the company, along with the major American corporations it supplies — like Apple and HP — announced that it would be reforming its practices.

Yet a new report from Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based advocacy and research group, finds that many of the practices that led more than a dozen workers to commit suicide continue to live on. SACOM conducted a comprehensive study of practices at several Foxconn factories over the months of March and April and found that a number of shocking policies are in place. Here are some of the highlights of their study:

– Workers Are Being Asked To Work 80-100 Hours Of Overtime: Despite promises by Apple and Foxconn to limit overtime work to 36 hours a month, SACOM researchers found that in some factories, like in Chengdu, it is typical for workers to work 80-100 hours overtime instead. This is actually 2-3 times the legal limit of allowed overtime work.

– Workers Are Being Forced To Sign ‘No-Suicide’ Pacts: In the wake of a huge wave of suicides at Foxconn plants, the company began reforming its practices related to the suicides. Among these changes included installing anti-suicide nets to catch workers who attempted to leap out of company windows. Yet workers are also being forced to sign a non-suicide pact as a condition of employment. As part of the pact, the employees families have to promise “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” in the case of a suicide.

– Employees Regularly Are Forced To Stand For 14 Hours A Day: SACOM found that workers in Chengdu “usually…have to stand for 14 hours a day.” “I don’t understand why we can’t sit. And we can’t bring our cell phone to the shop floor. Even the cell phone without camera is prohibited,” said one worker to the SACOM researchers.

– Employees Are Crammed Together In Dormitories With Squalid Living Conditions: In Chengdu, where almost all workers live in company-owned dormitories, the number of employees placed in a dormitory room range from 6 to 22. Employees’ living quarters are also under factory rules, and workers cannot even bring basic items such as hair dryers into their dorms. “Some of my roommates weep in the dormitory. I want to cry as well but my tears have not come out,” one 19 year-old employee told SACOM

Foxconn responded to the SACOM report with a statement given to the magazine PCWorld: “We have made tremendous progress over the past year as we work to lead our industry in meeting the needs of the new generation of workers in China and that has been confirmed by the many customer representatives, outside experts, and reporters who have visited our facilities and openly met with our employees and our management team.”

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