What is Apple doing in China!

The drama began when it was reported that a majority of Apple's products have parts that are manufactured in factories in China. The news became headlines when it was revealed that the working conditions of Foxconn - a chain of factories in China on contract by Apple - are not at all good.

CNN reported in detail an interview they conducted of a Foxconn worker. This female worker is 18 years old by the name of Miss Chen. She is a student from a village and her name has been changed to protect her identity. Her work hours are reported to be 60 hours per week. The work she does is to assemble iPad tablets. The amazing thing is that she has no idea what a finished iPad looks like. When CNN showed her the final product, she was entranced. "Wow, I want it," she said.

Miss Chen has received threats from Foxconn, warning her against talking to any reporter. Her colleagues have received similar threats too. Not surprising though. Foxconn's work culture is reported to be military-like, "one of surveillance, obedience and not challenging authority." Workers have a fairly good idea that they don't have a choice. Either they obey these rules, or they get thrown out.

Miss Chen was offered the job for one month, following a hard period in her life with no money and no experience. She was given the impression that there will be employee benefits and less overtime. But when she started working at the plant, she faced the grim realization that she was required to work overtime regularly, and only senior employees got benefits and sick leaves.

Chen said, "During my first day of work, an older worker said to me, 'why did you come to Foxconn? Don't ever think about it again and leave right now. Foxconn employees have a saying, 'they use women as men and men as machines'."

Image courtesy: photobucket

Her job was to stick more than 4000 stickers on iPad screens per day. The work is repetitive, boring and lengthy. She has worked for over 60 hours in the past three weeks, standing at an assembly line. She said, "It's so boring, I can't bear it anymore. Everyday is like: I get off from work and I go to bed. I get up in the morning, and I go to work. It is my daily routine and I almost feel like an animal."

The article got a response from both Foxconn and Apple. Foxconn reiterates that it takes its employees as a serious responsibility. "We work hard to give our 1.2 million employees in China a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that are competitive with all of our industry peers in that location," Foxconn explained.

Apple emphasized that it has equal concern for all suppliers and their employees worldwide. It said, "We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made. Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple."

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