The Shanghai Evening Post deserves all kinds of journalistic awards after their latest undertaking. The newspaper sent one of their journalists to pose as a new employee at Foxconn. His job was to see what the conditions at Foxconn were like while they were manufacturing the iPhone 5. His report is equally fascinating and terrifying.
The original report is obviously in Chinese, but MIC Gadget was nice enough to translate the entire thing. The timing couldn't have been better either as Apple is preparing to debut the iPhone 5 to the entire world this morning. It's not going to shame Apple into pulling out of Foxconn, but it may make them double their efforts with the FLA.
The journalist's report begins with the hiring process and a description of the dorms. Needless to say, it's not pretty. It's not entirely unexpected either. Things don't get really interesting until he starts to describe the manufacturing process for the iPhone 5. What follows is a company that overworks and underpays its employees while telling them that it's an honor to manufacture the iPhone 5.
The job assigned to the journalist was to mark placement points on the iPhone 5 backplate with an oil-based pen. He said that the job requires a person to pick up a backplate, mark four spots on it and put it back on the belt within three seconds. A worker doing the same job as him tried to take a break, but was caught by the supervisor. His punishment was to stand in a corner for 10 minutes.
The major complaint from most workers' rights groups is that Foxconn forces its workers to put in too many hours. The amount of overtime required by electronics manufacturers has led to the death of more than one man as exhaustion kicks in rather quickly. The journalist confirmed this to be case after saying that his shift was supposed to end at 5 a.m., but they were kept until 7 a.m. He said that work doesn't stop until the production line belt stops.
This is all just a small taste of what really goes on at Foxconn. The journalist was only able to work one job so he didn't get to see the more dangerous or labor intensive jobs. It already seems bad enough as it is.
Foxconn's chairman got into trouble early this year when he compared the workers to animals. That philosophy seems to have carried through to the supervisors especially when one said, “You might feel uncomfortable of how we treat you, but this is all for your own good.” Working long hours in brutal working conditions for a measly $4 in overtime doesn't seem like it's for anybody's good.
I'm sure that the Shanghai Evening Post wanted to kickstart the anti-Apple campaign on the eve of the iPhone 5 announcement, but it's probably not going to have much of an effect. I don't think anybody would ask you to refrain from buying an iPhone, but it would be nice if consumers would actually think for a moment on how much goes into making the electronics they take for granted.