iPad 2
Apple has come under fire for conditions in factories where iPads are made. Photo Credit: Matthew Downey/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Apple is facing criticism because of working conditions at factories that manufacture the iPhone and iPad. Worker suicides have been occurring, and it appears getting iDevices into people’s hands is hell for the people who make them.

Accounts paint dark picture

A recent article in the New York Times titled “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad,” details industrial accidents, worker suicides and atrocious working conditions at Chinese factories that manufacture Apple products. CNN has just released an interview with an anonymous worker from the Foxconn plant mentioned in the Times.

Among the common threads are forced overtime, oppressive conditions and terrible worker stress. Workweeks of 60 hours or more are common, often with only one day off per week. Low pay is mentioned, but as an article on Forbes points out, Foxconn workers make more than the Chinese national average.

Foxconn works for companies other than Apple

According to the Telegraph, 14 Foxconn workers committed suicide in 2010. The Forbes piece also points out the number of workers who committed suicide, when weighed against the number of people employed by Foxconn — more than 1 million — is lower than for the Chinese population in general. However, that’s for the general population, not just the people who work for a single employer.

Foxconn makes components for numerous companies, and protests aren’t confined to workers making Apple products. A group of 150 Foxconn workers recently threatened to throw themselves off the roof at the company’s factory in Wuhan, in protest of a transfer to a different factory to make cases for Acer computers, according to the Telegraph. They also were protesting layoffs and Foxconn reneging on severance pay. According to Forbes, they had been producing the Xbox 360. At the company’s flagship plant in Longhua, 24,000 people quit every month.

Chinese employers not the only culprit

Of course, Foxconn is not the only company linked to worker suicides. One worker committed suicide and another attempted it in the past seven months at a South Korean Hyundai plant, according to an AFP article on Yahoo News. It is alleged that management singles out unionized employees for intimidation.

France Telecom-Orange, a mobile wireless and internet provider, has been implicated in numerous employee suicides since 2006, according to the Guardian. Strenuous conditions and chronic intimidation by management have been implicated in suicide notes left by workers. Thirty employees killed themselves in 2008 and 2009, followed by 23 more in 2010. As of April of 2011, according to Der Spiegel, the death toll had reached 60.

According to Radio France Internationale, 71 French postal workers had committed suicide during 2010, often linked to despair and high stress due to working conditions.

Sources

New York Times

CNN

Forbes

Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/12/chinese-foxconn-workers-threaten-mass-suicide-over-xbox-pay-dispute/

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9006988/Mass-suicide-protest-at-Apple-manufacturer-Foxconn-factory.html

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/26/france-telecom-worker-kills-himself

Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/hyundai-hit-stoppage-worker-suicide-bid-061232544.html

RFI: http://www.english.rfi.fr/node/69491

Der Spiegel (German): http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/0,1518,759124,00.html

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