A CHINESE REPORTER has gone undercover at a Foxconn manufacturing plant to see what the working conditions are like, and the short answer is, not very nice.
Originally reported in the Shanghai Evening Post and translated by Micgadget, the article does not make the Foxconn experience sound attractive. People live in lousy conditions, don't get paid much, and make a lot of Iphones.
The reporter kept a ten day diary, the bulk of which concerns orienteering because he had to spend a full week being trained. According to the report he left on the tenth day because of the terrible conditions.
Orienteering sounds fun. Potential workers are asked about the state of their mental health - remember Foxconn is a place where workers have committed suicide - and apparently there is some subtle pressure that people are supposed to tick "no" to any questions about whether they might complain about harm being done to them.
Living conditions are rough, unless you are a cockroach, and the smell in the dormitories is described as a mix of "overnight garbage smell plus dirty sweat and foam smell".
Working conditions do not sound much better than the living or eating conditions, and according to the reporter the general line from bosses is "put up or shut up".
Overtime pay is low, the food is bad, and people are told to work first and ask questions never. "You might feel uncomfortable of how we treat you, but this is all for your own good," says one instructor.
Intensive training lasted for eight days, by which time our reporter had seen everything that Foxconn has to offer.
This sounds like a lot, and there is talk of a dormitory, canteen, bathing room, playground, gym, hospital, postal office, library and shopping area, but all are said to be in need of improvement.
By this time our hero has a fever and a headache, because, he suspects, of the intensive training. Medical assistance, it seems, is in short supply and high demand.
On day eight labour starts. "Once you sit down, you only do what you are told," says our man's supervisor. "This is the new unleashed Iphone 5 back plate, you should be honored having the chance to produce it."
He isn't honoured much, but does feel rushed, estimating that for every 10 hours that he works he will have to mark position points on 3,000 back plates.
"Each line can produce 36,000 IPhone 5 back plates in half a day, this is scary ... I finally stopped working at 7 a.m. We were asked to gather again after work," he adds.
"The supervisor shout out loud in front of us: Who wants to rest early at 5 a.m. !? We are all here to earn money ! Let's work harder !' I was thinking who on earth wants to work two extra hours overtime for only mere 27 yuan (USD$4) !?"
In a statement Foxconn said that it tries hard to keep its many employees happy, but admitted that it is not perfect. It did not deny the claims in the article, but said that it works with the government and third parties on improving its working conditions.
"Foxconn takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our over one million employees in China a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that significantly exceed government-mandated rates and that are competitive with all of our industry peers in each location where we operate. We also work hard together with the local government and third parties to provide housing, dining, recreational and other facilities that meet the needs of our employees and we are committed to a process of continuous improvement in those and other benefits," it said.
"We do this to ensure that we continue to attract the best workers in the industry. Foxconn is not perfect, but we are making progress everyday and we continue to lead our industry in meeting the needs of the new generation of workers in China. Anything, such as the report in question, that indicates that the high standards set by our company are not being followed is immediately investigated and addressed."
Apple is expected to launch the Iphone 5 later today. µ