Photo: Adam Mintner
If you’ve been waiting for iPhone 5s to become available, you may have to wait a while longer.
In the latest reminder of the harsh working conditions, crappy pay, and brutal hours endured by those who make the gadgets the world loves, 3,000–4,000 workers at a Foxconn plant have gone on strike, according to China labour Watch. (via Lauren Indvik at Mashable).
The strike, which was reportedly over impossibly-high work-quality standards, apparently shut down iPhone production lines at the factory for a day.
Here’s the statement from China labour Watch:
(New York) China labour Watch (CLW) announced that at 1:00PM on October 5 (Beijing time), a strike occurred at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory that, according to workers, involved three to four thousand production workers. In addition to demanding that workers work during the holiday, Foxconn raised overly strict demands on product quality without providing worker training for the corresponding skills. This led to workers turning out products that did not meet standards and ultimately put a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. Additionally, quality control inspectors fell into to conflicts with workers and were beat up multiple times by workers. Factory management turned a deaf ear to complaints about these conflicts and took no corrective measures. The result of both of these circumstances was a widespread work stoppage on the factory floor among workers and inspectors.
The majority of workers who participated in this strike were workers from the OQC (onsite quality control) line. According to workers, multiple iPhone 5 production lines from various factory buildings were in a state of paralysis for the entire day. It was reported that factory management and Apple, despite design defects, raised strict quality demands on workers, including indentations standards of 0.02mm and demands related to scratches on frames and back covers. With such demands, employees could not even turn out iPhones that met the standard. This led to a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. On top of this, they were not permitted to have a vacation during the holiday. This combination of factors led to the strike.
That quality control inspectors would also strike is of no surprise. According to workers, there was a fight between workers and quality control inspectors in area K that led to the damage in inspection room CA, the injury of some people, and the hospitalization of others. After this, another similar incident occurred in area K, once again leading to quality control inspectors getting beat up. Yesterday, inspectors in area L received physical threats. When inspectors reported these issues to factory management, the management simply ignored and turned their back on the issue. For these reasons, all day and night shift inspectors carried out a work stoppage today that paralysed the production lines.
CLW Executive Director Li Qiang said, “This strike is a result of the fact that these workers just have too much pressure.”
The working conditions and pay of those who make iPhones and other gadgets will likely become an increasingly contentious issue in the coming years, especially as Apple gets ever more profitable.
It is impossible to read the description of what it is actually like to work in one of those factories without feeling a major debt of gratitude to the millions of anonymous workers who help build such remarkable products.
UPDATE: Foxconn denies that a strike took place. It acknowledged that there were two isolated work disputes, but said that no work stoppage or disruptions had occurred.
UPDATE 2: Adam Mintner correctly observes that the original photo I used with this post was not of a Foxconn worker protest. I should have made that clear. Mintner supplies the current photo, which apparently comes from China labour Watch.