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Investigation finds Apple's Chinese workers treated 'inhumanely'

Inquiry into factories which produce Apple’s iPhones and iPads suggests excessive overtime and reports of anti-suicide pledges.

Image: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

A JOINT INVESTIGATION by two NGOs into employment conditions for Apple’s thousands of workers in China has revealed allegations of disturbing workplace conditions and practices.

Apple’s production operations in China are run in factories owned by Taiwanese company Foxconn.

Foxconn is the world’s main electronics manufacturing services provider and it also works on Dell and Hewlett-Packard products, according to the International Business Times. It manufactures Apple’s iPods, iPhones and iPads.

The Guardian reports that workers complained to the NGOs of excessive overtime which in one case was almost triple the legal monthly limit.

Others said that the production pressure for the first iPad meant employees were sometimes taking only one day off in 13.

Following reports of suicides by Apple employees in China, reports surfaced last May of bizarre workplace practices at the Apple factories, such as employees being asked to sign anti-suicide pledges and the company hanging safety nets around the buildings.

In late May 2010, Forbes reported that ten workers at facilities run by Foxconn had apparently taken their own lives since January 2010.

When questioned by the Observer newspaper about the allegations reported by workers, Foxconn manager Louis Woo said that workers sometimes worked more hours than the legal limit to meet consumer demands, but that this was done voluntarily. Woo also denied that suicides were linked to bad work practices, but said that if one person took their life, others “will follow”.

Apple said it is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility and requires its suppliers commit to its code of conduct.

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