In May 2011, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) released a report, titled Foxconn and Apple Fail to Fulfill Promises: Predicaments of Workers after the Suicides, which documented the labour rights conditions at the Foxconn plant in Chengdu, China, a supplier of the iPad. Workers frequently endure excessive and forced overtime in order to gain a higher wage. If they cannot reach the production target, they have to skip dinner or work on unpaid overtime shifts. Even worse, they are threatened by potential harm from occupational diseases in various departments. Additionally, military-style management practices are still in place, characterized by “military training” for new workers. A month later, SACOM released its report, a short video clip, the Truth of the Apple iPad Behind Foxconn’s Lies, was launched to reveal the poor working conditions at the Foxconn factory in Chengdu. Four months on, SACOM has not heard any response from Apple. Likewise, after the explosion at Foxconn’s plant in Chengdu, which caused 3 deaths and 15 injuries, neither Apple nor Foxocnn has given any public account of the cause of the explosion. Furthermore, there is no transparency in either company’sprocess of implementing remedies after the tragedy. To keep up the pressure on Apple and Foxconn, SACOM has investigated another Apple supplier, Futaihua Precision Electronics (Zhengzhou) Company, the Foxconn’s subsidiary in Zhengzhou, which produces iPhones. Regrettably, the findings are equally as bad as those found in Chengdu.
The following is a summary of the findings:
Working on a construction site
- The construction work of the permanent factory in the Airport Zone is still in progress. The environment is messy. Dust flies around the campus on clear days, and flooding occurs when it rains.
Miscalculation and withholding wages
- Many interviewees are underpaid because of mistakes in the recording of working hours and attendance. Sometimes the workers receive a few hundred less than what they deserved. There are records of work stoppages even the workers have had full attendance.
- In order to retain workers after the Lunar New Year, Foxconn withheld part of the overtime premium of workers in January. Workers got back the deducted money only after unremitting complaints.
Forced and unpaid overtime
- Some workers have to work extra time on the production line till the production target is reached.
- “Comprehensive working hours” deprives overtime premium of workers.
- There are unpaid work meetings before and after work shifts.
Workers exposed to irritating chemicals
- Workers in the metal processing department are exposed to “unknown” chemicals that have irritating smell. There is no proper safety sign or illustration label at sight. The ventilation on the shop floor is poor. Some workers reported that they have headaches and suffer from skin allergies.
- Supervisors yell at workers with foul language. Workers experience pressure and humiliation. Workers are warned that they may be replaced by robots if they are not efficient enough.
- Apart from scolding by frontline supervisors, other forms of punishment include being required to write confession letters and copying the CEO’s quotations.
- A majority of workers have to stand for 10 hours during work shifts. There is no recess as promised by Foxconn. Some workers suffer from leg cramps after work.
- Workers have extra workloads or have to skip the second meal break under the arrangement of “continuous shifts”.
Dormitory under construction
- There are unreasonable prohibitions against activities such as washing clothes or using hair dryers in the dormitory.
- Water and electricity suspensions occur on regular basis in the dormitory.
Care hotline does not care
- The care hotline is either inaccessible or unhelpful. Many workers do not trust the hotline. Those who have called the hotline report either that it is a void number or that the complaints get back to their supervisors.
- A few respondents shared that there have been unconfirmed cases of strikes. According to them, the workers concerned were dismissed.
The full text of the report can be downloaded at http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/20110924-islave-behind-the-iphone.pdf.