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I Promise Not to Kill Myself...

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Contributor:
Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

Like the inmates of Nazi concentration camps who chose to finish their own miserable hopeless lives by deliberately zapping themselves on the electrified fences of their prison hell, some Chinese employees who work in factories for big-bucks clients such as Dell, Hewlett Packard, Sony Ericsson, Apple and Intel have also turned to suicide.

Usually mainstream culture prefers to keep the dregs of society at a comfortable distance, where their pathetic lives cannot touch us long enough to inspire guilt or questions of morality. Aside from a spot of sexual molesting here and there, masters don’t mingle with their slaves for a reason. It’s uncomfortable. But when those disposable human beings start drawing attention to their miserable lives - by splattering their brains all over our clean streets and pavements - it is admittedly harder to turn a blind eye. It’s always a few weirdos who just go ahead and selfishly ruin it for the rest of us… or in the words of  Foxconn company chairman “too much attention being given to the troubled few.“

How long has this been going on for before it could no longer be ignored?

When the eighth employee committed suicide this year (that's over 8 suicides in the whole 6 months of this year) Foxconn Technology (the global contract manufacturer that assembles iPhones and iPads in China) insisted that its treatment of workers is first class. By the thirteenth attempt the company was blatantly and openly accused of overworking employees in abusive conditions, yet Foxconn continued to deny these allegations. 

Again... how long has this been going on for and how long has it been ignored?

Claims of employee abuse were investigated - by none other than Apple - in June 2006 and they found employees to be overworked and not receiving proper time off. And then they made their conclusion - that the claims of abuse were unfounded. 

In fact, true to international evil corporation standards, when the Chinese government proposed minor labour rights improvements for workers, Microsoft and other U.S. companies fought to prevent the changes. Through the American Chamber of Commerce in China, it was threatened that the changes would hurt employment opportunities and negatively impact on China's investment environment. You can always trust capitalists to look out for the little guy. This is why, in their deepest concern and compassion, Foxconn has helpfully hung nets around the outside of their factory, to protect their valued and esteemed employees. 

To summarize, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that Foxconn "is not a sweatshop". Here’s why:

  • Employees stand to earn a solid yearly income - when working overtime - of approximately $1,164.39 (or less if they eat on a daily basis.)

  • Talking, listening to music, and use of personal cellphone is forbidden during work.

  • Employees need permission to drink water and use the toilet. 

  • Employees are fined for mistakes. 

  • Workers who live at the factory must purchase their own bedding. 

  • There is no television, phone, air conditioning or electrical outlets in employee living areas or bedrooms. 

  • “Non-adult” workers were reported as working 15 hour days - 7 hours more than the legal limit.

  • Work study students passed out with exhaustion on assembly lines during their unpaid ten-minute breaks (which they receive every four hours). 

  • Workers complained of having to stand upright without moving for eight hours straight

The uncomfortable amount of attention drawn to this minor blip is being smoothed over by statements that wages will be raised by a generous 30 per cent! However as uncovered by the Telegraph UK, families of the dead victims receive a handy pay out of up to $16,100. Considering base wages for workers are just over $100 per month, that’s the equivalent to 10 years worth of pay. Not a bad incentive to pop yourself off, if you know you will easily be securing the comfortable future of your family...

Something tells me that asking employees to sign a pledge promising they will not kill themselves is just not going to cut it. 

“I know that I can choose not to work overtime, but if I don't work overtime, then I am stuck with only $112.67 per month in base wages.  This is not nearly enough to support a family.  My parents are farmers without jobs.  They also do not have pensions.” 

"I feel like I have an empty life and work like a machine."

"We're treated pretty well here, I think the suicides were caused by individual problems."

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