Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nearly a year after the NYT expose, little is changed at Apple's key manufacturer Foxconn

Time is closing in on a year since a New York Times expose on poor conditions at Foxconn, Apple's key manufacturer for many of its devices. How much has changed? According to a Monday report, not enough.

"Envoye Special" is a French "60 Minutes"-like show from public TV station France 2. Reporters from the show went undercover at the Zhengzhou iPhone 5 Foxconn factory recently, to find little has changed.

Examples of the poor conditions:
  • Dorms at the factory -- which is reportedly new -- were occupied by workers despite the fact that many were still under construction and had no elevators, electricity or running water.
  • Supervisors were captured on hidden camera warning employees not to plug anything into outlets in dorms that did have electricity, because eight workers were killed in a fire due to overloaded circuits.
  • Those vaunted Foxconn raises have amounted to nothing. According to the report, much of their higher $290 monthly salary was still being absorbed by the company due to housing, insurance and food expenses.
  • One employee claimed to have only $340 left after an entire year of work.
  • Student employees claimed school administrators forced them to work at Foxconn, where they are paid less, by telling them they would lose their diplomas if they failed to take a job.
  • An example of Foxconn's treatment of employees was its cautionary activity around potential suicides. Employees -- not the company -- had to pay $7 for a psychological test designed to catch suicidal job candidates.
In 2010, Foxconn saw a number of employee suicides. After the New York Times report in January, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association, the first technology company to do so. The FLA then conducted an audit of Foxconn, and found numerous violations.

Both Foxconn and Apple said that they would make adjustments. It doesn't appear that the adjustments have taken hold, although it's possible Apple believes they have.

Three brief clips from "Envoye Special's" report can be viewed below.

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