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Bite put on Apple over China staff conditions

By Martin Hickman

Published 27/05/2010

The American electronics giant Apple was investigating damaging allegations last night that Chinese workers making its new iPad were subjected to such “inhumane” treatment that some of them committed suicide.

Documents seen by The Independent reveal there were widespread failures by Apple's suppliers to respect standards on labour rights and safety specified by the company, which had sales of £30bn last year.

An update to the US firm's supplier codes in February revealed that a majority of its 102 facilities flouted its “rigorous” rules on working hours, which include a weekly limit of 60 hours a week — equivalent to 12 hours a day.

The company has been embarrassed by publicity surrounding 11 suicide attempts at the Foxconn facility near the southern boom city of Shenzhen, where the iPad is made, threatening to overshadow its launch today.

Yesterday, Apple promised to investigate if the plant, which employs 300,000 people who earn 30p an hour, should continue to make its products. At the 1.2-square mile facility, which also makes products for Dell, Hewlett Packard and Acer, nine workers have died and two have been badly injured in roof jumps in 2010.

All the incidents involved workers aged under 25, who apparently have been disturbed by long shifts and strict discipline. Talking is banned during shifts, which last at least 10 hours.

Workers must perform a certain number of repetitive operations, under the eye of supervisors.

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