English tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail is reporting that employees working for Foxconn, assembler of many Apple products, are being forced to sign pledges not to commit suicide. The report from the tabloid paper points to an investigation conducted by the Centre for Research on Multinational Companies and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom). Sacom claims it uncovered "appalling" working conditions at the Foxconn factory that include excessive overtime and public humiliation.
While the Daily Mail cites the Sacom study as evidence of abysmal working conditions at Foxconn, the Sacom report investigates factory conditions across China -- not just Foxconn -- and, in fact, congratulates Foxconn as being the only employer to pledge to meet government limits on overtime.
The anti-suicide letters seem to have been first published on the Shangaiist website, where there's some discussion on the exact translation of the supposed leaked Foxconn employee letter. The contentious, final paragraph states:
"In the event of non-accidental injuries (including suicide, self mutilation, etc.), I agree that the company has acted properly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, and will not sue the company, bring excessive demands, take drastic actions that would damage the company's reputation or cause trouble that would hurt normal operations."
But what Shangaiist author Elaine Chow translates as "will not sue the company," others translate as "will not make demands outside of law and regulation."
In fact, this anti-suicide pact that new workers are asked to sign seems to point them towards sources of help should they have problems, including a trade union hotline -- not quite the dismal picture painted by the Daily Mail.