The Most Disturbing Report Yet From iPhone Factory Foxconn

A reporter from the Shanghai Evening Post says he worked undercover at Foxconn Tai Yuan factory for 10 days.

Foxconn is the controversial facility where all of Apple’s products are produced.

His mission: Learn about iPhone 5 production.

The reporter kept a detailed journal of each day he spent at Foxconn. The first seven days were spent in training. The 8th day he helped produce the iPhone 5.

He depicts run down facilities, gruelling hours, tedious jobs, and disgusting living quarters.

Micgadget has translated most of The Shanghai Evening Post’s report. Here are the highlights from the reporter’s diary.

Day 1: A sanity test, a perpetual garbage smell, and lots of cockroaches

The reporter contacted Foxconn HR and was told he could work there so long as he was healthy and had proof of citizenship. Then he had to pass a test to see if he was sane. The test asked him questions such as how he had been feeling for the past 30 days. Then he hopped a bus to the factory.

Sleeping at Foxconn was not a pleasant experience. The reporter called it a “nightmare” and said it smelled like a combination of garbage and sweat. “When I opened my wardrobe, lots of cockroaches crawled out from inside and the bedsheets that were being distributed to every new worker were full of dirt and ashes,” he wrote.

All of the windows in the workers’ living quarters were covered in bar-like wires — possibly to prevent suicides.

foxconn ipadThe lines of people waiting to work for Foxconn

Photo: American Public Media Marketplace; Video shot and produced by Rob Schmitz; Edited by Jeff Peters

Day 2: A sketchy confidentiality agreement that encouraged possible toxic pollution

The reporter was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. All workers must pledge to keep technical information, sales figures, production statistics and HR information about Foxconn secret. 

There was a section for “possible harmful effects that may be caused to workers during production.” Workers were asked to accept all of them including “toxic pollution.”

foxconn dormA Foxconn worker’s living quarters.

Photo: ABC News (screenshot of a report)

Day 3-6: Training: “You might feel uncomfortable about how we treat you….just obey.”

After signing the confidentiality agreement, the reporter and fellow Foxconn workers were given a history of the factory and given safety precautions. There were 13 reward policies and 70 penalty policies.

The Foxconn employee told the group over and over again that the most important thing they needed to do at Foxconn was “obey.”

“You might feel uncomfortable about how we treat you, but this is all for your own good,” the supervisor told them.

Day 7: The run down facilities and hardly any medical care

Foxconn wants its workers to produce products straight through the night. They’re encouraged to rest during the day. The reporter said the conditions gave him a perpetual headache, but when he visited Foxconn’s sole hospital, there was only one doctor on shift.

The reporter checked out the entertainment facility, bathrooms, gym, and post office. All were in poor condition. “The so-called theatre room only shows a screen shot picture of a meeting room. The most interesting part is, out of the whole Foxconn factory, I can’t find a single place selling beer,” he wrote.

Foxconn workers come together to relieve stress on the “playground” outside the factory. At one of the gatherings, the reporter jotted down a fellow worker’s announcement to peers:

“We are all over stressed everyday and we are not allowed to shout on the production floor. Over here you can shout as loud as you want to release your stress.”

The playground outside Foxconn.

Day 8-10: Hands on with the iPhone 5 – Dinner at 11 PM, Shift ends at 6 AM

Security was heavy heading onto Apple’s production floor. Workers were told that if they were stopped by metal detectors with so much as a belt buckle, they’d be terminated immediately.

Once in, the reporter was assigned to work on the iPhone 5’s back plate. He and his peers were told they should be “honored to have the chance to produce it.”

“Our line is being assigned to use masking tapes and plastic stoppers to cover up the earphone jack and the connector ports of the back plate in order to prevent the paint from being sprayed onto it on the next process,” the reporter wrote. Everyone wore gloves and masks.

Finally at 11 PM, the workers ate dinner. Then it was back to work. The reporter was frequently scolded by supervisors for being too sloppy and working too slowly.

New back plates passed the reporter on a conveyer belt every three seconds. He had to pick them each up quickly, mark them with an ink pen, and put them back. Mistakes were not allowed. The reporter complained of neck and muscle pains after hours of the tedious work.

The shift continued until 6 AM. The reporter estimated that in 10 hours of work, he was expected to mark 3,000 iPhone 5 back plates; 48 others in three other production lines were expected to do the same and produce about 36,000 iPhone 5 back plates total in just half a day’s work.

At 7 AM, the reporter and his peers were finally allowed to rest. Their supervisor encouraged them to work two hours of overtime, for a mere $4.

china factory shenzhen foxconn

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Read the entire translated article and the reporter’s diary over at Micgadget >

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