In a move aimed at discouraging further suicides, Foxconn — the maker of Apple's iPhone and iPad — will no longer pay compensation to families of employees who kill themselves, China's Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.
Xinhua cited posters in Foxconn's Shenzhen complex in China as saying the company had "concrete evidence" that some of its employees who killed themselves in a recent spate of suicides had done so in order to win compensation money for their families.
Most of the victims' families received more than 100,000 yuan ($14,640), Xinhua said.
"The act is wrong. Life is precious. To prevent such tragedies, Foxconn is to cease releasing compensation other than that provided by law," Xinhua quoted the poster as saying.
Foxconn is owned by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, which has announced two wage rises in the past two weeks for workers at the sprawling plant in Shenzhen, where some 400,000 staff assemble iPhones and other gadgets.
Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou, Taiwan's richest man, told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in Hong Kong on Tuesday that he would limit overtime at plants in China to no more than three hours a day.
Protesters picketed the meeting, accusing both Foxconn and Apple of poor corporate ethics after 11 workers have killed themselves and three have attempted suicide at Foxconn's operations in China this year, mainly by jumping from buildings.
The 30 demonstrators held signs saying, "Workers are not machines. They have self-esteem," outside a hotel function room where shareholders were meeting.
Protesters also targeted Apple, waving a cardboard cutout of Chief Executive Steve Jobs with devil's horns and another placard featuring the company logo and the words "Bloody Apple."
Protesters also laid white flowers at an Apple shop in a tribute to the dead workers. Organizer Debby Chan accused Foxconn of poor management, urging the Taiwanese manufacturer to raise wages and let workers set up an independent union.
Chan also said Apple should do a better job of monitoring labor and safety standards at their suppliers.
"They should strengthen their sense of corporate social responsibility," Chan said in a phone interview.
Foxconn is the world's largest contract maker of electronics. Company officials are installing safety nets in buildings and hiring more counselors.
Labor activists accuse the company of having a rigid management style, an excessively fast assembly line and forced overwork, but Foxconn denies the allegations.