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Foxconn employees endure hellish working conditions to earn a tiny wage for building Apple's iPads, iPods, and iPhones.  (Source: Southern Weekly)

The conditions are so bad, some employees have taken their own lives. Foxconn has created the "stress room", a place where emloyees can be away their rage and frustration, in hopes of decreasing the suicide rate.  (Source: Southern Weekly)
Apple's parts supplier Foxconn faces more controversy

Last time a reporter tried to penetrate Apple's veil of secrecy, security guards employed by their parts supplier, Foxconn, beat up the reporters involved.  But questions had to be answered in the wake of the suicide/potential murder of a Foxconn employee which occurred after the employee lost an iPhone prototype.

Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly was determined to find out the true story, and sent a reporter in undercover, posing as a new employee.  Given the fact that Foxconn's Shenzen plant that builds Apple's iPads, iPods, and iPhones has 400,000 employees, that part wasn't too hard.

What was hard, was for the reporter to endure the plant's reportedly hellish working conditions for 28 days. 

So far in the last four and a half months seven workers from the plant have committed suicide, and at least 9 have attempted suicide.  According to reporter Liu Zhi Yi who infiltrated the plant, the likely reason why was that they felt taking their own life was the only option to escape the hellish working conditions of the plant.

According to Liu, the plant makes employees work around the clock, only pausing briefly to eat or sleep.  Most of the time the employees are standing, seldom able to sit down and rest their weary legs.  This is perfectly legal, as employees are required to sign a special overtime document that override Chinese workplace laws and essentially allows the employer to demand whatever hours they want from you, without additional compensation.

Foxconn pays the workers far too little for them to hope to buy one of the Apple products they assemble.  It pays them only 900 Chinese Yuan a month —about $130 USD.  Still the workers have dreams.  They joke that their carts that they haul Apple materials on are "BMWs", dreaming of real BMWs.  They buy lottery tickets and bet on horse races in hopes of miraculously being handed an escape from their purgatory.

But for most, they will live out their lives slaving away to build Apple's products, constantly in danger, while earning only a pittance.  So, according to the newspaper there's little surprise some employees fall into deep despair.

Foxconn at the request of Apple and Chinese state officials has made some steps to decrease the suicide rates.  It's hired counselors and given workers dummies to beat on to vent their rage.  And it's even been so kind as to hire Buddhist monks to allow the souls of those who committed to suicide to escape purgatory.

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RE: Price
By hans007 on 5/19/2010 10:27:45 PM , Rating: 1
labor cost is a miniscule amount of the cost of the phone though.

if they paid theworkers twice as much, they probably would only have to raisse the price of the phone by maybe $5.

Mexican plants pay workers maybe $1-2 an hour (vs $130 a month for the chinese plant), and their costs are generally competitive given they benefit from nafta etc.

For example to build your basic PC assembled on an assembly line only takes about 10-15 min.

I worked summers at a hewlett packard plant in the 90s when they were still in southern california for some tings, and 15 minutes at $10 an hour, vs 10 cents an hour is what $2.50

It doesn't take 10 hours to assemble a phone. The same applies to cars, which is why a $20k car has maybe $1000 in labor costs if not less.

materials are the main cost and r&d.

The only reason companies go to china labor is that miniscule extra amount of say $5 per phone. It would be say $5 x 1 million iphones, so 2 million dollars.

RE: Price
By 7Enigma on 5/20/2010 8:10:43 AM , Rating: 5
Oh woe is the California education system:

"It would be say $5 x 1 million iphones, so 2 million dollars."

RE: Price
By hyvonen on 5/20/2010 11:05:08 AM , Rating: 2
Should I even respond to that...?

The workforce costs at that Foxconn facility is probably a tiny portion of the total costs (that includes land/building/electricity/etc.), and I'm sure they want margin, too. It's not as cheap as you'd think.

Of course, the situation is far worse in the US, what with extra social security and other taxes, health care costs, higher cost of land/energy... Even though you made $10/h, you can bet the cost of your labor was much higher for HP.

RE: Price
By JustTom on 5/24/2010 11:20:40 AM , Rating: 2
Labor costs to build most cars is significantly higher than 1K, at least if you are talking about the US. Costs to GM were $73/hr, labor costs are over 2K per car on average. Maybe you meant wages which are only a part of labor costs.

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