Workers at Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen, China who assemble products for Apple, Sony, Nintendo, Dell, Nokia and other corporations have reportedly been asked to sign a 'pledge' agreeing not to kill themselves as a result of work related stress.
One worker who refused to sign the suicide clause speaking the state-run China Daily newspaper said "If I bicker with my supervisor, will I be sent to a mental hospital?".
A 21-year-old worker from the southern Guangxi province told South China Morning Post how she worked 72 hours a week with only one day off and described Foxconn workplaces as "so tight and depressing that we're not allowed to speak to each other for 12 hours or you'll be reproached by your supervisors."
Another worker, 22 (only workers in their early twenties are employed by the company), earns the equvalent of $300 per month, the US cost of a 32gb iPhone. It appears it is as cheap to buy a worker as it is to buy the latest technological gizmo.
Foxconn's response is to set up nets to catch workers who leap to their death from the factory roofs and to open counselling centres and stress hotlines.
There has been no talk of reducing working hours, improving conditions or raising wages. Apple, who launch the new iPad this week have decided to turn a blind eye to these appalling events and have made no comment regarding the shocking deaths.
11 Foxconn workers have attempted suicide this year. Only two survived. This prompted journalist Richard Lai to go undercover and report on workers' conditions in the plant.
According to Lai's report in Southern Weekend 'modern factory workers are being paid way less than the first generation Chinese migrant workers in the 80s.'
Labour activists claim that the conditions of Foxconn workers are dire. Shifts are too long, assembly lines move too fast and management uses military-style discipline to control workers.
This appears to be backed up by a Beijing TV news report revealing footage which it is claimed shows Foxconn security guards beating up workers at a Beijing plant.
SACOM, an organisation of activists, trade unions, students and scholars staged a protest yesterday demanding that Foxconn raises wages to 3,000 yuan ensuring a living wage for its exploited workers. According to a statement on their website, SACOM calls on the Chinese government to "immediately end the model of development that has sacrificed people’s basic dignity."
The organisation has published a report (available in PDF) entitled "Dying Young: Suicide and China's booming economy" which links the rise in suicides in China to 30 years of heavy industrial growth which has, according to the document, "deepened regional inequalities, prolonged stagnation of wages, and deprived migrant workers’ citizenship and human rights."
It is a clear indication that the expansion of capitalist production is accompanied by the savage degradation of the conditions of the workers who produce the commodities that make millions for the wealthy few.
The Foxconn story is just one isolated example of the atrocities of rampant global competition which pursues corporate profits at the expense of working people.
Dan is a writer, broadcaster and campaigner. His most recent documentary was The New Scramble For Africa and his documentaries have appeared regularly on the Islam Channel. He is an organiser for Counterfire and a regular contributor to Counterfire site.
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