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Well, maybe not officially, but if you were to read the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct document (PDF), then read an account of working conditions at Foxconn, it'd seem someone has some explaining to do.
Via Gizmodo, we learn of a special investigation launched by one of China's newspapers, the Southern Weekly, in the wake of the sixth suicide attempt in the month of April. Going undercover, 20-year-old reporter Liu Zhi Yi, spent 28 days documenting deplorable working conditions at the Shenzhen, China Foxconn plant. Operating round-the-clock, Shenzhen makes iPods, iPhones and iPads, as well as Mac minis and a variety of products for other companies including Sony, Dell, HP, Nintendo, and Intel. Regular followers of Apple news may recognize the company's name in association with an engineer who apparently leapt to his death after losing an iPhone 4G prototype and being beaten – some say tortured – by a plant security guard.
Since April, in the last three weeks alone, according to Malcolm Moore of the Telegraph newspaper in Britain, Foxconn's Shenzhen plant has seen 30 more suicide attempts. This cluster of suicides seems to lean heavily toward leaps (or falls) out of windows and skews toward the under 25 years old recently hired demographic. In more than one instance, victims of Foxconn falls have been described as having "cuts" on their person.
Many blame the company as workers complain of long hours after signing a "voluntary" document that overrides Chinese labor law regarding overtime, as well as Apple's stated policy of restricting "a workweek ... to 60 hours, including overtime." Spending all day standing, one worker described his favorite activity as dropping stuff on the floor. That way he could squat down and momentarily rest his legs and feet. Liu also reported that workers have only a brief time to eat or sleep on their shifts and work every day except for public holidays, often on shifts of up to fifteen hours.
And as a reward for this grueling schedule, workers receive salaries beginning at a whopping 900 Chinese yuan, roughly $130. Per month. Such salaries aren't even enough to purchase the shiny gadgets they build, so workers content themselves with Apple knock-offs and their dreams of saving up enough money to escape. That and apparently attempting suicide.
In response to what even Foxconn officials recognize as a growing issue, the company has brought in a Buddhist monk to try and exorcise "evil spirits." No report yet on whether or not that has met with success, though the company has also brought in more monks to pray for the souls of the suicides. Possibly more successful, Foxconn also claims to have hired 100 counselors to help employees deal with their stresses.
Of course, one can't help feel that Apple is turning a blind eye to these sorts of issues. Foxconn's had repeated complaints and issues including security guards attacking a Reuters reporter on the street in China and Foxconn workers in Mexico setting fire to the factory after supervisors tricked them into working overtime without compensation. When you add in the recent story of Wintek exposing its employees to known toxin N-hexane, Apple's Supplier Code of Conduct sounds less like a set of rules and more like a collection of helpful suggestions.