iSuicide; Computer Workers Forced to Sign Death Pact Clause EXCLUSIVE

Article excerpt

Byline: Gethin Chamberlain

FACTORIES making Apple iPhones and iPads forced staff to sign pledges not to commit suicide before they were taken on.

A t least 14 workers at Apple's Chinese supplier Foxconn have killed themselves in 16 months.

And more have either survived suicide bids or were stopped from trying at plants in Chengdu and Shenzhen.

One executive accused victims of doing it to win compensation payouts for grieving relatives.

And in the aftermath of the tragedies, staff seeking jobs at the giant factories were ordered to make written promises not to follow suit.

They even had to vow that if they did, their families would not claim more than the legal minimum in damages.

The wave of suicides came as worldwide demand for iPhones and iPads rocketed, forcing staff to put in up to 98 hours of overtime a month - almost three times the limit in Chinese law.

Foxconn insist they had to break the law to hit targets, even though excessive overtime is banned by international law and Apple's own code of conduct.

The computer giant - founded by Steve Jobs - netted pounds 3.5billion profit in the first quarter of this year alone.

But the basic pay for Chinese workers is as little as pounds 5 a day.

Staff claim they are publicly humiliated if they complain or break strict company rules.

Some are even made to clean toilets as punishment.

They are banned from talking at work, have to stand up for their entire 12-hour shifts and are made to do military marching drills.

Half a million Chinese - many of them teenagers and even kids - work at the factories.

They sleep in high-rise dormitory blocks where hair-driers and kettles are outlawed.

One man who broke the rule had to write in a letter: "It is my fault. I will never blow my hair inside my room. I have done something wrong. I will never do it again."

Most of the suicides have involved staff leaping off the dormitory blocks. Bosses have now rigged up nets on all the balconies to stop jumpers.

Apple's own inspectors found fewer than a third of factories obeyed overtime rules. …