iPhone 5: Undercover journalist exposes working conditions at China plant

Working conditions across Foxconn factories in China, especially the units that are deep in the production of the iPhones have constantly found themselves grabbing headlines. A brief report now sheds light on the working conditions of several workers in a particular Foxconn factory that had been employed in the production of the latest iPhone.


The report, essentially an account of an experienced journalist with the Shanghai Evening Post, walks the reader through the daily life of a worker at the factory. The journalist was asked to enlist himself as a new recruit at the plant, to see and experience for himself how the working conditions in the plant really were, and look at the how the iPhone 5 was being produced at the unit. What we have now is a prompt account of the 10 days that the journalist spent at the plant. Interestingly, the journalist only stayed there for 10 days, since the working conditions at the plant were undesirable. On the 8th day, according to the published account, the journalist actually got to be a part of the iPhone 5 production. Micgadget.com reproduced a summarised and translated account of the journalist’s stay, day-by-day. 

Apple to launch a new tool for creating ebooks?

Journalist narrates his 10-day account in a moving post



The journalist was told by the person in charge of the Human Resource at the unit that he could work at the unit as long as he was healthy and had a citizenship identity card. At the outset, the journalist was asked to fill out a form for testing his current mental state. He had to answer about 30 questions with a "Yes" or a "No". One of the questions was "Have you got into a state of mental trance recently?". From there, the journalist and some other workers were driven to the Taiyuan Foxconn factory. 


Here, the journalist pens what may be his first tryst with the working conditions in the factory. A translation on Micgadget.com puts this bit as, "The first night sleeping at Foxconn dormitory is a nightmare. The whole dormitory smells like garbage when I walked in. It’s a mixed of overnight garbage smell plus dirty sweat and foam smell. Outside every room was fully piled up with uncleared trash. When I opened my wardrobe, lots of cockroaches crawl out from inside and the bedsheets that are being distributed to every new workers are full of dirts and ashes."


Going further, the journalist reveals that they were asked to sign the employment contract. Elaborating on it, he says that the contract focuses on four confidential areas: All technical information, Sales figures, Human resource, and Production statistics. Importantly, he notes that the contract did not "mention much on the overtime works"


One of the shocking observations here was, "Under the section of “Possible harmful effects that may cause to worker during production”, the management has asked us to tick “No” for all of them. This includes “Noise pollution” and “Toxic Pollution."


Another one of the striking experiences put down by the journalist of his 10-day stay was that the checklist that was given out contained only 13 reward policies, as against penalty policies. 


Speaking of his experience inside the iPhone 5 production space, he says, "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. Our supervisor asked us to put on our mask and gloves and see how the seniors work on it."


The task the journalist was assigned required him to mark for position points on the back-plate of the iPhone 5 using an oil-based paint pen and put it back on the running belt quickly within 3 seconds, sans errors. Narrating his experience, he adds, "After such repeat action for several hours, I have terrible neckache and muscle pain on my arm. A new worker who sat opposite of me gone exhausted and laid down for a short while. The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days."


Providing a crucial insight into the specifics, the journalist adds, "By my own calculations, I have to mark five iPhone plates every minute, at least. For every 10 hours, I have to accomplish 3,000 iPhone 5 back plates. There are total 4 production lines in charge of this process, 12 workers in every line. Each line can produce 36,000 iPhone 5 back plates in half a day, this is scary … I finally stopped working at 7 a.m. We were asked to gather again after work. The supervisor shout out loud in front of us: “Who wants to rest early at 5 a.m !? We are all here to earn money ! Let’s work harder !” I was thinking who on earth wants to work two extra hours overtime for only mere 27 yuan (USD$4) !?"

Published Date: Sep 13, 2012 19:03 PM | Updated Date: Sep 13, 2012 19:03 PM