updated 01:05 pm EST, Mon December 27, 2010
Mangers impose strict discipline on long hours
In spite of pay raises and promises to reduce overtime, working conditions can still be dehumanizing at Foxconn's Shenzhen factory campus, says French journalist Jordan Pouille. Foxconn is Apple's primary manufacturing partner, responsible for assembling devices like the iPad and the iPhone. It also assembles products for other companies, such as Sony's PSP handheld, and HP's printer cartridges.
Last May, Pouille helped to expose sweatshop-like conditions at Foxconn, in which people worked virtually non-stop for marginal pay. A rash of suicides was linked with the situation. Pouille suggests however that things are mostly unchanged, with people working 13-hour shifts six days a week, or even a full seven days during times of peak demand. Breaks are said to be minimal, limited to 10 minutes every two hours.
Workers must surrender cellphones to guards before entering, and are subject to extremely strict discipline from managers. They are forbidden from speaking or listening to music while on shift, and even smiling or sitting down.
Most assembly workers are reported to be in their late teens or early 20s and from poor provinces like Henan, Hunan or Sichuan. The main improvement since Pouille's last visit is said to be luxuries. "Once a week, owing to their bigger salary, workers are able to treat themselves and enjoy simple pleasures like a funny haircut or a good candy. They like showing [off], and the bridge over Foxconn main gate now looks like a catwalk," he writes.
The journalist is critical of Apple, arguing that the company should find a supplier capable of providing better working conditions. The current state of affairs is described as a throwback to the "old Industrial revolution."