updated 05:40 pm EDT, Sun April 8, 2012
Media outlet gets rare live look at Foxconn plants
American Public Media's Marketplace has posted early details of a rare guided tour of a Foxconn factory. The only such tour outside of an earlier ABC visit, the visit by Mike Daisey exposť reporter Rob Schmitz included "unfettered" access. In first-hand talks with staffers, his initial impression was that many of the reports of underage workers and dangerous conditions were overstated, and that the truly common issues were management and pay.
Most often, Foxconn employees were concerned about a pay raise promised in March that didn't appear to have taken effect at their level. Managers also appeared to lean heavily on nepotism, preferring certain workers over others.
"Many of them had really tough relationships with their immediate supervisor," Schmitz said. "Many of them felt that these supervisors sort of played favorites sometimes and unfairly punished workers for not meeting quotas."
The actual conditions were more sophisticated than portrayed by some. Staff had proper backed chairs and weren't standing or working from stools, Schmitz found. More often, it was simply repetitive, and many on the factory floor were there to raise money for their rural families, not to establish a career. Foxconn's plant resembles a college dorm with all the on-site facilities, the reporter said.
Fuller information would come with a public radio segment on Monday.
While the tour presents a more moderate view of Foxconn than in the past, it comes after years of earlier labor issues and may reflect improvements since. Many suspicions have also been raised that Foxconn might sanitize the experience, either by hiding the true problems just for the sake of the tour or by suggesting workers might be fired if they say more.
Questions remain as to conditions in Foxconn facilities that make other companies' products. Dell, HP, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony, and other firms all use Foxconn for some of their lineups, but none have come forward in a significant manner to address their part or to try and improve conditions. [via Fortune]