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Reporter allegedly goes undercover at 'iPhone 5' factory

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
A Chinese reporter allegedly went undercover as an employee at a Foxconn, experiencing first hand what workplace conditions are like in one of the company's plants.

The in-depth report from the Shanghai Evening Post, translated by MIC Gadget, doesn't offer much in the way of new information regarding hardware, but manages to give insight into the stresses Foxconn workers face on a daily basis.

It should be noted that AppleInsider cannot confirm the Shanghai Evening Post's report as the purported "facts" are unverifiable at this time.

The Chinese publication's reporter managed to stay inside the walls of Foxconn's Tai Yuan factory for ten days, seven of which were spent on orientation. During the short stay, he was able to gather a great deal of information, with most of the focus trained on the grueling working conditions and living situation.

Undercover Reporter
alleged photo of undercover reporter.
Source: Shanghai Evening Post


Sleeping at Foxconn's dormitory is a "nightmare," the reporter writes, and smells of garbage, dirty sweat and a "foam smell." Trash was piled high in front of the dorm rooms' and cockroaches infested the linen closet. Bedsheets were also in a sad state being full of "dirts and ashes."

A warning sign reading "TOP SECURITY AREA" (possibly better translated as "Top Secret") greets workers as they enter the factory floor, walking through metal detectors both coming and going to ensure nothing is brought in our out of the area. Those found in violation are immediately fired.

Once on the assembly line, the reporter was tasked with preparing the iPhone 5's back plate for painting by marking the areas on which masking tape would be applied, though his liberal use of the oil-based pen earned him the ire of his supervisors. His partner in charge of affixing the tape and plastic covers over the earphone jack and connector ports of the backplate was also reprimanded for moving too slowly

?This is the new unleashed iPhone 5 back plate, you should be honored having the chance to produce it,? a supervisor said.

From the report:

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) !?


After coming under fire for its treatment of workers, Foxconn in August was reported to be making strides in rectifying a number of inadequacies found by the Fair Labor Association inspectors in March.

Apple is widely expected to debut the very product the undercover reporter allegedly worked on, the sixth-generation iPhone, at a special event on Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. AppleInsider will be providing live coverage of the presentation.
post #2 of 33
Yeah, let's move this line back to the USA... Everyone will be happy to work like a dog in the good ol' USA! We might not be able to get illegal aliens to work as hard as Chinese workers.
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post #3 of 33
"We are all here to earn money"

It's called modern-day slavery.
post #4 of 33
Well that's the life there. It's not surprising to hear his comments because he have another option to earn a better money as a reporter so he's not that desperate to work there.

If you want the gadgets to be assembled in US, expect it to be priced much higher because of the salary needed by american people to match their cost of living. Also the problems of american culture, they aren't suited to work like that, expect tons of whine and lawsuits everywhere.
post #5 of 33
I seriously hope this isn't a Chinese version of Mike Daisey
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post #6 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigmike View Post

"We are all here to earn money"
It's called modern-day slavery.

 

Except that they get paid better than average salaries and can quit any time they want...

 

Modern-day slavery does exist and this most certainly is not it!

post #7 of 33
I wonder what a Chinese factory worker could buy in China for four US dollars?

How does it relate to what a Chinese journalist is paid?

It's all relative.

btw, if I couldn't be bothered taking out my rubbish, my house would start to smell and be invaded by cockroaches, if I didn't wash my "beddings" and clothes, they'd start to smell, if I didn't cook or go buy food I wouldn't eat, if I didn't wash up afterwards there'd be more smell and more cockroaches, after spending 10 - 12 hours a day commuting and working, Western living is such a "struggle".

It sounds like this dorm where you don't have to do anything except sleep or chill out is pretty luxurious.
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post #8 of 33
If we put these factories here in the US, all Apple products production would cost about quadruple what they already is. Minimum wage her is 8.something per hour, if you read, you would see that they are getting $2 per hour. This would drive our end-user Apple product prices through the roof. iPhones-$700 subsidized, etc.

 

 


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post #9 of 33
Interesting that this is released the day of Apple's iPhone 5 release and probably isn't any different than all the other Chinese factories.

I'm sure this article will spread across the Internet fast, since it's Apple bashing fodder, but how does Foxconn compare to other Chinese factories?
post #10 of 33
Quote:
the reporter was tasked with preparing the iPhone 5's back plate for painting by marking the areas on which masking tape would be applied

That sounds fake to me. That's how a backyard hobbyist would make a part, not a precision production line.

I question this guy's veracity.
post #11 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by logandigges View Post

If we put these factories here in the US, all Apple products production would cost about quadruple what they already is. Minimum wage her is 8.something per hour, if you read, you would see that they are getting $2 per hour. This would drive our end-user Apple product prices through the roof. iPhones-$700 subsidized, etc.

Logan,

 

If I am remembering correctly, the cost of labor for putting the iPhone together is either in the high single digits to low double digits in dollar terms so I don't think the actual cost is all that high. I think that is why Apple is funding most of the wage increases that the Chinese workers at FoxCon are getting. Even if wages went up a fair amount more from here, if the numbers I am remembering are correct, then it wouldn't significantly affect Apple's bottom line and shouldn't have too significant an affect on prices, especially since Apple's profit margins are decent. I think the amount of labor cost in each iPhone was listed in a previous AppleInsider article but I am too lazy right now to look it up.

 

I think where rising wages would have a significant affect would be on the manufacturers that have slim margins, like Dell. I am going to guess that working conditions and pay in those factories are much worse than those in Apple factories. If a Dell factory has to significantly improve working conditions and wages, then I would think that may more significantly affect the pricing of products since margins are so much slimmer than Apple products but I still don't think you would be looking at even a doubling of the product price.

 

Apple is at the forefront of these stories because it has become one of the most successful companies on the planet. Its name will attract attention. That is why Apple factories have drawn scrutiny. But don't think that things are better at other factories. In fact, things are probably better at Apple factories in China than for other manufacturers. Just look at the recent news from Samsung about their factories in Asia. That doesn't excuse Apple for having to do a better job but wages and working conditions in the developing world are a process that is constantly changing. Things in the USA didn't change overnight but it was a gradual process towards living wages and improved working conditions. I don't expect the Asian factories will be any different.

post #12 of 33
It's China! The only reason this is in the news is because they produce Apple products. Don't you think your shower curtain, coffee cup, pens, desk phones, computer speakers, ect.. all come from the same kind of factories? But no one gives a sh*t about those because it's not Apple.

Give it a rest everyone.. this is how the world works. The poor countries manufacture stuff for the rich countries.. and the working conditions suck.
post #13 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dlux View Post

Quote:
the reporter was tasked with preparing the iPhone 5's back plate for painting by marking the areas on which masking tape would be applied

That sounds fake to me. That's how a backyard hobbyist would make a part, not a precision production line.

I question this guy's veracity.

I imagine it is accurate-- that part of the process has a $0.02 labor cost per unit. What seems odd to me is just that it is so manual and inefficient. I would think things like this would be much more automated and efficient from a process perspective.
post #14 of 33
The thing that I notice is that except for the description of the dirty accommodations, there is nothing new here and nothing you wouldn't expect in any factory on the planet regardless of whether it's in China or not.
post #15 of 33
I don't think this scale of manufacturing could ever be done here in the States without the creation of expensive automated machinery. Its sad to think the conditions there are, allegedly, so poor but that's what comes with an emerging economy.
post #16 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Headrush69 View Post

Interesting that this is released the day of Apple's iPhone 5 release and probably isn't any different than all the other Chinese factories.
I'm sure this article will spread across the Internet fast, since it's Apple bashing fodder, but how does Foxconn compare to other Chinese factories?

 

Or even other factories anywhere.  As someone who's had many a job in a factory in the past, all in North America, this is pretty standard stuff.  They want you to work hard.  The work is mind numbingly boring.  That's pretty much factory work.  Other than the dirty accommodations, this is a pretty standard factory situation he finds himself in.  (if it's even true). 

post #17 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post


I imagine it is accurate-- that part of the process has a $0.02 labor cost per unit. What seems odd to me is just that it is so manual and inefficient. I would think things like this would be much more automated and efficient from a process perspective.

 

1. No iPhone to date has had any paint on it at all. Apple would use a different surface treatment for durability.

 

2. Using masking tape as applied by humans leads to quality-control problems. One slight ripple and the paint gets underneath. Also, removing the tape can leave an 'edge' to the paint. Not a big deal on something as large as car, but bad for handheld consumer devices.

 

3. Even if tape were called for (and I still say it wouldn't), a production line would set up jigs to hold the part and then tape would be applied in a controlled fashion using an indexed guide. Marking it with a pen for each part? Inefficient and prone to human error.

 

That's why I think it's a fake report. It's like reading that someone infiltrated an automotive production line and claimed their job was to drill all the holes in the body for trim attachement and whatnot. No, the holes are part of the sheetmetal stamping process. His example is not plausible.

post #18 of 33

Let me put some perspective on this, since I work in China about 6 mos. of the year.  I have some idea of what cost of living there is.

I don't work in the electronics industry there but I do know what it costs to live and work there.

 

If you all read this article carefully, you'd notice that they purportedly get paid 2 USD per hour.

 

For me, working in Beijing, and average meal (meaning a walk-up eatery, similar to our fast food) can cost anywhere between 6-12 RMB (about $0.92-$1.82 USD).

An average Big Mac meal at McDonald's cost about 25 RMB (or about $4 USD)

 

Transportation: a one-way ticket on the Beijing Subway costs 2 RMB (about 32 cents USD)  Compare that to a one-way subway ticket in Chicago = $2.25 USD.

Taxi Ride from the Center of Beijing to the International Airport: 80 RMB (about $12 USD)

 

Employment taxes are also much lower than the USA.  In some cases it can be between 10% and 20%

 

My employer pays for my apartment and utilities, so i'm not sure what that costs, but overall in one month, I can spend about $300-$600 USD for living expenses, including gifts and leisure.

I do know that the Chinese Gov. does create some very high subsidies on food and utilities.

 

Here's a couple websites that can illustrate some of the differences:

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=China

http://www.englishfirst.com/trt/cost-of-living-in-china.html

 

I know also that salary comparisons-wise...an average worker in my office makes about 30%-50% of what an average US worker in the same position makes.

 

Things I know about places like Foxconn: They pay for the worker's food and housing.  Granted, according to this reporter, the conditions are not good, but neither is government subsidized housing in China either.

 

One thing I've noticed while living there, trash seems to just pile up everywhere.  I'm not sure why, but my guess is that you have to pay for trash pick-up?  or maybe trash pick-up is severely under-staffed?  I don't know but I do know that trash just accumulates everywhere.

 

So to put things in perspective, this is far from slave labor.  The conditions might not be what we expect in the US or other countries, but things could be far far worse.

 

Anyway, that's just my first-hand experience.  So before you say that $2/hour is slave labor, just think about what things cost comparatively.


Edited by antkm1 - 9/12/12 at 7:58am
post #19 of 33
I find the timing of this alleged report suspicious as hell. And as such, not credible.
post #20 of 33

@ankm1 Great article thanks


Edited by mwhiteco - 9/12/12 at 8:19am
post #21 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by makingdots View Post

Well that's the life there. It's not surprising to hear his comments because he have another option to earn a better money as a reporter so he's not that desperate to work there.
If you want the gadgets to be assembled in US, expect it to be priced much higher because of the salary needed by american people to match their cost of living. Also the problems of american culture, they aren't suited to work like that, expect tons of whine and lawsuits everywhere.

That's not true, and anyone who thinks Americans won't apply for jobs hasn't tried applying for any job in the last 5 years.

During boom times, jobs are plentiful and companies can't find fill positions, so they train them. During bust times, companies only hire who they can poach from other companies. They won't hire unemployed people and won't train anyone. The average unemployed person can't even get a job at a grocery store because there are too many people applying for the wageslave jobs. The fact that there is a minimum wage and overtime laws is the only thing that keeps manufacturing jobs from coming back. Unions are what drive them away. Unions are needed to prevent these jobs from turning into sweatshops, but they wouldn't be necessary if the job was reasonable in the first place.

So would Apple open their own factories here? No. Would Foxconn? Probably. It doesn't make logistical sense to unless the cost of producing them in China reaches the same level as it would by producing them in the US. The fact that Foxconn Abuses Now Include Cajoling College Students Into Assembly Lines means there is an exhaustion of labor where the existing factories are located, OR people are actually starting to turn their nose up working for Foxconn.

Working in a safely run factory is a much better job than working at any retail place in the US. It's mindless and boring, but is so are many call center, retail and domestic factory jobs anyway. That's nothing new. The problem for the US, is that there isn't enough people in one place to make it economical, even if the wages were at parity. They'd have to do the same thing they're doing in China, house people in dorms. That won't go over well here except maybe people who rent in walk-in-closets in NYC which would be a step up. I've seen this before, American call center opens up in Canada, the place stays open until they've exhausted all the local talent, then they close it and move to another Town. They do the same in India and the Philippines.
post #22 of 33

I find the timing of this alleged report suspicious as hell. 

post #23 of 33

deleted


Edited by MacRulez - 1/21/13 at 3:01pm
post #24 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dlux View Post

 

1. No iPhone to date has had any paint on it at all. Apple would use a different surface treatment for durability.

 

Wasn't the white iphone delayed because they couldn't get the paint right for the glass?

post #25 of 33
Actually, in virtually all the studies done, in productivity dollar for dollar, the American manufacturing worker is on par with china. Most of this is due to the utilization of automation. Here, those 4 assembly lines would be 1 line of robots building 6-8 parts at a time. The biggest cost savings in Chinese manufacturing are:
1. No pesky expensive environmental controls.
And
2. Factory layout and reconfiguration.

It's easy to move folding tables around.
post #26 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I seriously hope this isn't a Chinese version of Mike Daisey

 

Perhaps if he ate KFC's "Double-Down" fried meatwich every day, he could.

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post #27 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyb0731 View Post

 

Wasn't the white iphone delayed because they couldn't get the paint right for the glass?

 

Well, I was referring to paint on the outside. You might be correct on that one but if so it's on the inside of the glass. This report talks about masking the outside (including the connector ports), which, to me, sounds like someone speculating on how things are done based on their own non-production experiences.

 

The first thing an (exterior) painted iPhone would do when you slide it into a pocket with other objects is get scratched, and that simply isn't the way high-end CE devices are finished.


Edited by Dlux - 9/12/12 at 7:42am
post #28 of 33
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post
Perhaps if he ate KFC's "Double-Down" fried meatwich every day, he could.

 

That would improve security, too.

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post #29 of 33
If this turns out to be true, it is a shame.

Although, It's the popularity and secrecy wrapped around apple that has us so invested. Right now I'm sure there are tons of stuff in everyones homes that have been made in similar or worse conditions, yet we don't know or care how or where they are produced.

I'm looking at my toaster oven, microwave, George Forman grill, tv, Xbox, ps3, coffee maker, exercise equipment.

I don't know where or how any of these are made. I'm sure at least one of them have questionable pruduction lines.

I'm not justifying these bad working conditions, I am only stating that if it bothers us so to hear this, we should do a clean sweep of all out beloved devises and appliances.
post #30 of 33

The article is a complete fabrication, and a fairly poor attempt at doing so.

 

In the original article (in Chinese), the reporter was assigned to put "protective paint" over "4 electric contacts of 1mm by 1mm each" with a felt pen. Not to mention the new iPhone connector having 9 pins instead of 4, does anyone in their right mind actually believe that apple would paint these back plates AFTER assembling the iPhones? There are numerous other errors in the article but being actually from Hong Kong I can tell you this is typical of the level of journalism in mainland China. There is nothing to see here, folks.

 

 

In case anyone is curious here, put the text below into google translate and you will see what I meant.

 

我被分到“点油墨”,就是用油画笔在手机后盖的四个1毫米见方的接触点上涂上保护用的油墨。


Edited by gaarder - 9/12/12 at 9:55am
post #31 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I seriously hope this isn't a Chinese version of Mike Daisey

Given the lack of photos etc, it's hard to take this as fact.

So he could be

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post #32 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by elppa12 View Post

I find the timing of this alleged report suspicious as hell. And as such, not credible.

Yeah releasing this on the day the iPhone is being announced. Total coincidence, not

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post #33 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I seriously hope this isn't a Chinese version of Mike Daisey


Not quite. Reading the source article myself I felt like reading a Chinese version of Weekly World News.

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