You remember those audits of Foxconn facilities that took place last week? According to one labor rights activist, we should really take the initial reviews with a grain of salt.
Of course, many were already skeptical of any report that labeled working conditions inside a Foxconn factory as “satisfactory” after all of the stuff we’ve heard about them in the past few months. But Student’s & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM)’s Debby Sze Wan Chan, Foxconn deliberately manipulated factory practices in order to sway the inspections.
She told Apple Insider that Foxconn workers told her that “All underage workers, between 16-17 years old, were not assigned any overtime work and some of them were even sent to other departments.” Another worker went on to say that around the time of the audit, she was allowed three breaks a day – triple her usual one per day.
Sixteen to Seventeen-year-old workers aren’t illegal, according to Apple’s policies, but there are strict guidelines about overtime and breaks.
On February 13th, Apple release a statement outlining their partnership with the Fair Labor Association. They said that they would be conducting special audits of final assembly suppliers – including Foxconn plants in Chengdu and Shenzhen. The FLA team set out to interview workers, inspect conditions on the floor & the dormitories, and review procedural documents.
A couple of days later, FLA president Auret van Heerden shocked some when he said that the initial review of the Foxconn plant proved the facilities to be “first class.” He went on to say that “physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm.” But he did also recognize that Foxconn might put on a show for the inspectors. According to SACOM, that was definitely the case.
Chan talked about the typical day of a Foxconn worker:
The workers always tell us they resemble machines. Their regular day at Foxconn is waking up, queuing up for baths and work, work and go back to the dormitory and sleep. They do not have a social life and they are doing the same monotonous task in the factory for thousands of times a day. If they are not efficient enough or they make some mistakes, they will be yelled at by their supervisor or punished.
Late last week we reported that Foxconn had raised worker wages anywhere from 16% to 25%. This means that a junior level worker is making around $290 a month – definitely not what most people would call a living wage. Chan told Apple Insider that this was not even close to enough:
“In Zhengzhou, the basic salary of new workers is CNY 1350 ($214),” Chan said. “And there is a deduction of CNY 150 ($24) for the dorm. If a worker eats inside the factory, there is another CNY 200-300 ($32-48) to pay. It is far from the living wage standard. Without overtime premiums, a worker can hardly support his/herself.”