Wei stands weary, at the point of breaking after a long 12-hour shift
at Apple's Foxconn factory. He understands all too well the
sentiments of the employees that committed
suicide. Despite a 30
percent pay raise (which comes at a total cost to Apple of
around $3.50 of its $200 in profit per iPad sold), he still only
makes $172 USD a month, no where near enough to afford one of the
hundreds of iPhones he makes a day. He still can't make enough
to decently support his family, but he also is afraid if he quits he
will be unemployed -- left with nothing at all.In
a Bloomberg report he
complains, "Life is meaningless. Everyday, I repeat the same
thing I did yesterday. We get yelled at all the time. It’s very
tough around here."Foxconn manufactures motherboards for
virtually every major computer or phonemaker. Among its
customers are Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Nokia, HP, and Dell.
However, Apple is one of its biggest partners. Foxconn
manufactures most of Apple's iPads, iPhones, and iPods.Amid rampant
demand for iPads and iPhones, Foxconn has cracked down on
employee freedoms and forced employees to work longer hours, often
times unpaid. Conditions at the Apple plant are reportedly far
worse than the working conditions at other Foxconn plants used by
Dell, HP, and others.On the line employees are now forbidden
to talk to each other. They only are allowed 10 minutes of
bathroom breaks every 2 hours -- even if they are sick. Noise
on the factory floor is so loud that it has damaged many employees
hearing -- even that of employees like Ah Wei, who wears ear plugs
while on the line.Many employees have reportedly requested
transfers out of the hellish
factory to one of Foxconn's other facilities, and had their
requests denied. Ah Wei has tried three times to request a
transfer, but has had no luck.The Shenzhen facility has
trappings of a pleasant workplace. Palm trees surround the
factory town that house as many as 420,000 employees. Inside
the town there is a hospital, a collection of restaurants and even a
swimming pool.However, one need only look at the employees to
recognize the authoritarian atmosphere. Men are forced to wear
matching blue uniforms whenever they go out, and women wear matching
red uniforms. Security
personnel are easily recognizable in their white
uniforms.Liu Bin, an average employee at the plant complains
that the company expects workers to work at
12-hour shifts a week (72 hours). Meanwhile they get inferior
medical coverage, are constantly exposed to toxic solvents and
vapors, and don't have enough money to buy nutritious food. At
least one employee has reportedly died of exhaustion this
year.States Liu, "It’s hard to make friends because
you aren’t allowed to chat with your colleagues during work.
Most of us have little education and have no skills so we have no
choice but to do this kind of job. I feel no sense of achievement and
I’ve become a machine."Terry
Gou, Hon Hai Precision Industry's chairman of the Foxconn unit,
is baffled by the suicides. The exec, who reportedly enjoys a
decadent lifestyle and recently married a new young bride, says he
can't understand why employees would take their lives. He
states, "Are we going to have this happen again? From a
logical, scientific standpoint, I don’t have a grasp on that. No
matter how you force me, I don’t know."Gou is Hon
Hai's largest shareholder with over 10.8 percent of the company's
stock. He's estimated to have assets in excess of $5.9B USD,
making him one of the world's richest men.Apple Inc., whose
sales in industrialized nations are so dependent on Foxconn, is
sticking by its partner -- for now. CEO Steven P. Jobs --
another one of the world's richest men -- comments,
"We are all over this. Foxconn is not a sweatshop."
quote: The problem is that I don't see a way out of it
quote: there are reports that the local security staff yells at an abuses employees on a daily basis.
quote: surely being involved in making such prestigious Apple products should more than make up for that
quote: Conditions at the Apple plant are reportedly far worse than the working conditions at other Foxconn plants used by Dell, HP, and others.
quote: Where have you read that this factory is exclusive to Apple?
quote: The factory doesn't just work for Apple. HP, Dell and others also use the facility.
quote: I'd rather be a destitute farmer attempting to live off the land than work 12 hours per day in a harmful, strict factory.
quote: CEO Steven P. Jobs -- another one of the world's richest men -- comments, "We are all over this. Foxconn is not a sweatshop."
quote: sweat·shop (swet'shop')n. A shop or factory in which employees work long hours at low wages under poor conditions.The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
quote: sweatshopworkplace in which workers are employed at low wages and under unhealthy or oppressive conditions. In England, the word sweater was used as early as 1850 to describe an employer who exacted monotonous work for very low wages. "Sweating" became widespread in the 1880s, when immigrants from eastern and southern Europe provided an influx of cheap labour in the United States and central Europe. An increase in industrialization in the 20th century saw sweatshops emerge in parts of Latin America and Asia, a trend that accelerated with increased demand for consumer goods in the West and a lowering of international trade barriers.Learn more about sweatshop with a free trial on Britannica.com.Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.