An investigation by two NGOs, ­ the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, found that the 500,000 workers at the Shenzhen and Chengdu factories, which manufacture iPhone and iPads, are treating workers ‘inhumanely, like machines’.

Claims by the report include: overtime far above the legal limit of 36 hours a month, in one case up to 98 hours; only taking one day off for every 13 in order to meet demand for the iPad; public humiliation for badly performing workers; crowded dormitories that sleep up to 24 and requirements to sign a statement pledging not to commit suicide and to ‘treasure their lives’.

Foxconn manager Louis Woo told the Observer all overtime was voluntary, while workers claim that without overtime on their basic 48-hour week, it would be impossible to live on their $190 a month, or about a dollar an hour.

The reports follow ongoing problems with working conditions in Chinese manufacturing plants, despite efforts by Apple to monitor the third-party Chinese factories. Earlier this year, some of the 137 workers at an Apple supplier factory in Suzhou poisoned by the chemical n-hexane, used as a cleaning agent in the iPhone’s production, claimed they had not received adequate treatment for ongoing medical problems.

Apple’s statement to the Guardian reaffirmed the company’s commitment to social responsibility and monitoring third-party suppliers that manufacture their products, which netted the company a profit of US$5.99 billion in the last quarter, up 83 percent on the previous year:

“Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base. Apple requires suppliers to commit to our comprehensive supplier code of conduct as a condition of their contracts with us. We drive compliance with the code through a rigorous monitoring programme, including factory audits, corrective action plans and verification measures.”

Source: Australian Macworld