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Foxconn to investigate iPhone 5 factory woes

Undercover hack claims filthy conditions, bullying

Workers in a Foxconn plant, credit: Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA

Foxconn, the Chinese contract manufacturer, has admitted it's "not perfect" and promised to investigate conditions at its Tai Yuan plant after an undercover exposé by an undercover reporter revealed filthy dorms and bullying by managers on the iPhone 5 production line.

The report by a Shanghai Evening Post hack details (via MIC Gadget) ten days in the factory, located in northern China’s Shanxi province.

In it, the reporter complained of cockroach-ridden dorm rooms full of piled up rubbish and of being forced to sleep under dirty, ash-stained bedsheets.

He contracted a fever after a week of intensive training but said the on-site medical team were under-resourced and unhelpful.

The hack then got to start work on the production line but lasted just three days due to the repetitive, exhausting nature of the work – marking five iPhone 5 back plates with a paint pen every minute for seven straight hours at a time.

He said he was frequently scolded on the production line, effectively forced into extra over-time andwitnessed a colleague being forced to stand in the corner by a manager as punishment for resting on the job.

Foxconn has issued a lengthy statement in response, claiming to offer its one million-plus employees in China “a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that significantly exceed government-mandated rates and that are competitive with all of our industry peers in each location where we operate”.

It continued:

"We also work hard together with the local government and third parties to provide housing, dining, recreational and other facilities that meet the needs of our employees and we are committed to a process of continuous improvement in those and other benefits.

We do this to ensure that we continue to attract the best workers in the industry. Foxconn is not perfect, but we are making progress everyday and we continue to lead our industry in meeting the needs of the new generation of workers in China. Anything, such as the report in question, that indicates that the high standards set by our company are not being followed is immediately investigated and addressed."

The iPhone-maker, which also produces kit for Nokia, HP, Dell and other big tech names, has been the subject of intense media scrutiny this year after several damning reports from not-for-profit groups highlighted serious labour rights violations at some of its plants.

This led to its ‘landmark’ agreement with Apple and the Fair Labor Association in March after the FLA conducted audits of three plants – in Guanlan, Longhua, and Chengdu – and the most recent update from the FLA has been encouraging.

However, others have pointed out things are still not rosy across all of the ODM’s plants and this report would seem to confirm that.

Only this week it had to deny allegations that it was forcing interns to work on the iPhone 5, allegations which have been levelled in the past.

Foxconn is certainly not alone in having increased scrutiny placed upon it, with Samsung contractor HEG Electronics and manufacturer VTech both having been accused of various labour rights violations.

Most rights groups are in agreement that, in the tech sphere at least, Foxconn is a leader in China when it comes to pay and conditions – the issue is whether this is good enough. ®

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