Foxconn orders workers to sign “non-suicide pact”

Apple’s favoured supplier Foxconn has worked out that the best way to stop its workers from topping themselves is to get them to sign a piece of paper saying they won’t.

More than 12 workers have thrown themselves off high buildings rather than work on Apple’s iPhone. The gizmo maker is apparently deeply embarrassed by the fact that critics can accuse it of using Chinese sweatshops and that its beautiful toys are soaked with young people’s blood.

Foxconn is taking the problem seriously. It has told workers to sign letters promising not to kill themselves and even agree to be institutionalised if they appeared to be in an “abnormal mental or physical state for the protection of myself and others”.

Only a company whose autocratic control over a person’s life is causing suicides would think it could contractually oblige people not to think about it. Of if they think about it to promply institutionalise themselves.

Nets were also being hung around buildings to deter suicidal employees, as Foxconn allowed TV crews in to interview workers and to examine conditions. One employee told BBC News that workers were treated badly by managers.

The suicides are not big news in the US where Apple gadgets are considered more important than Chinese workers lives. However in Hong Kong workers’ rights groups throw paper money in front of paper figures, depicting workers who recently died in apparent suicides, during a traditional Chinese mourning ceremony outside a Foxconn office.

Labour activists called for a boycott of the next generation of Apple’s iPhone, which is assembled by Foxconn, days ahead of the international launch of the iPad