© SACOM Electronics Production | September 30, 2011

iSlave behind the iPhone?

Hong-Kong-based SACOM – Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour – has a record of looking into working conditions in Asia, particularly in China were most of today's electronics are being manufactured. They also take a closer look at Foxconn and Apple. Or better; the Foxconn factories were Apple products are being churned out.
In 2010, Taiwan-based EMS-giant Foxconn announced plan for relocation to inland provinces after the spate of suicides in its Shenzhen manufacturing hub. The Henan provincial government was the first to attract such investment. Production commenced in August 2010, only a month after the conclusion of the contract.

With all the support provided by the regional government, workforce in the factory has reached 52'500 (over the space of just 1 year), whilst production capacity for the iPhone in the Zhengzhou facility reached 100'000 per day.

In the meantime, SACOM has also conducted investigation into the living and working conditions in Henan. The reports – yet again – does not paint a pretty picture.

Here are some of the findings:

Factory environment: The production site in the Processing Zone is a temporary site that was offered by the local government a month after the contract was signed between the government and Foxconn. The permanent site for Foxconn is designated in the Airport Zone. While the construction work on the plants is still in progress, Foxconn has put some of the plants in operation. Basic facilities like canteens and food stores are not ready. Workers can hardly find a place to wash their hands after work. Dust flies around on the construction site and there is flooding during rainy days.


In early 2011, Foxconn incorporated the food allowance (CNY 240) and housing allowance (CNY 150) into the basic salary of workers across the country. The basic salary at Foxconn factories in Zhengzhou is CNY 1'350. Renting of the dormitory and consumption of food is deducted from workers’ salaries automatically.

Working hours

The SACOM investigation was conducted during the low season. On the top of the 174-hour regular shift per month, most of the respondents state that the monthly overtime is 50-80 hours, which exceed the 36-hour legal limit.

“It is apparent that these provisions have not been honored by Foxconn.”
Work safety

The massive poisoning at the Wintek factory in Suzhou in 2009 and the explosion at the Foxconn factory in Chengdu in May of this year make the public question the occupational safety at Apple suppliers. Lots of workers from the metal processing department in the Economic Development Zone can be easily identified by the stains on their clothes and shoes. Some of them are machine operators who produce the silver frames for iPhones, while some others work on cleaning, assembling, and quality control, etc. Most of the workers are male.

The Law of the Prevention and Treatment of Occupational Diseases requires employers to ensure work safety in the workplace. Article 20 provides that there should be adequate protective measures, both in facilities and on equipment, for workers against occupational disease. There must be clear indication of the harm from the chemical in use (article 26). In addition, pre-post and on-post occupational health training should be provided to workers (article 31).

Water and electricity suspension

Yu Kang is the permanent dormitory. It can house 140'000 people. Construction is still going on, and water and electricity suspension frequently occur.

Long queue in canteen

A majority of the workers is not satisfied with the quality of the food. In the Airport Zone, the capacity of the canteen cannot meet the demands of workers. Some workers have to queue up for 20-30 minutes in the canteen. If they arrive at the canteen late, they can only get a very small potion of food. It makes them frustrated.

“It is dangerous, especially in early morning or at night, because there is no proper pavement and workers can only walk on the road side, with trucks and cars running at high speeds.”

In the Airport Zone in particular, both the factory and the dormitories are situated in a remote area. The bus service does not have the capacity to serve tens of thousands workers. In Area K of the Airport Zone, there is no bus service available and workers have to walk for 20-30 minutes from the factory to the dormitory, and vice versa.

Trade union & hot line

According to the Trade Union Law in China, a trade union should be democratically elected by workers. At Foxconn, workers know that a union exists, but have no idea how it was formed. To cope with public pressure during the spate of suicides, Foxconn also set up a care hotline for workers. In both cases workers feel it is a window-dressing tactic and do not rely on either for help.

Source: The entire report can be found at SACOM's website. / All images © SACOM
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