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Foxconn employees endure hellish working conditions to earn a tiny wage for building Apple's iPads, iPods, and iPhones.  (Source: Southern Weekly)

The conditions are so bad, some employees have taken their own lives. Foxconn has created the "stress room", a place where emloyees can be away their rage and frustration, in hopes of decreasing the suicide rate.  (Source: Southern Weekly)
Apple's parts supplier Foxconn faces more controversy

Last time a reporter tried to penetrate Apple's veil of secrecy, security guards employed by their parts supplier, Foxconn, beat up the reporters involved.  But questions had to be answered in the wake of the suicide/potential murder of a Foxconn employee which occurred after the employee lost an iPhone prototype.

Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly was determined to find out the true story, and sent a reporter in undercover, posing as a new employee.  Given the fact that Foxconn's Shenzen plant that builds Apple's iPads, iPods, and iPhones has 400,000 employees, that part wasn't too hard.

What was hard, was for the reporter to endure the plant's reportedly hellish working conditions for 28 days. 

So far in the last four and a half months seven workers from the plant have committed suicide, and at least 9 have attempted suicide.  According to reporter Liu Zhi Yi who infiltrated the plant, the likely reason why was that they felt taking their own life was the only option to escape the hellish working conditions of the plant.

According to Liu, the plant makes employees work around the clock, only pausing briefly to eat or sleep.  Most of the time the employees are standing, seldom able to sit down and rest their weary legs.  This is perfectly legal, as employees are required to sign a special overtime document that override Chinese workplace laws and essentially allows the employer to demand whatever hours they want from you, without additional compensation.

Foxconn pays the workers far too little for them to hope to buy one of the Apple products they assemble.  It pays them only 900 Chinese Yuan a month —about $130 USD.  Still the workers have dreams.  They joke that their carts that they haul Apple materials on are "BMWs", dreaming of real BMWs.  They buy lottery tickets and bet on horse races in hopes of miraculously being handed an escape from their purgatory.

But for most, they will live out their lives slaving away to build Apple's products, constantly in danger, while earning only a pittance.  So, according to the newspaper there's little surprise some employees fall into deep despair.

Foxconn at the request of Apple and Chinese state officials has made some steps to decrease the suicide rates.  It's hired counselors and given workers dummies to beat on to vent their rage.  And it's even been so kind as to hire Buddhist monks to allow the souls of those who committed to suicide to escape purgatory.

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RE: Let's put this into context...
By wiz220 on 5/19/2010 6:23:03 PM , Rating: 2
Ya, I was also going to ask, if you took the standard suicide rate of the population, is 16 suicides/attempts out of line with a sample size as large as 400,000 individuals? Also, do we have suicide notes from these people saying "I can't take it at the factory anymore" or are we assuming that work was the cause?

RE: Let's put this into context...
By wiz220 on 5/19/2010 6:29:21 PM , Rating: 3
Just wanted to clarify. I'm not defending Apple here, if they have the power to do so, I think they should definitely strive to make conditions better for the people producing their products. Apple, after all, has FAR higher margins than most other companies (even in other industries) and could easily afford it. As others pointed out, other companies have been held accountable and now do a better job of monitoring the conditions of the third party companies producing their goods.

My primary point was that some of the data COULD be skewed a bit and not give the full picture.

By gabetowers on 5/24/2010 7:41:44 PM , Rating: 2
Another thing that must be post into context is how much $130/month can buy in communist China. I visited ShenZhen and there is no lack of people comming from the communist part of China to get a job one one of the countless factories there. They work hard, save money and they go back to their village as "kings". And the fact is that Foxconn is not doing anything illegal. People there work there because they want. If they don't want, they can always go back to the village they came from.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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