Saturday, 14 January 2012

Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory: Foxconn

An illuminating, amusing and very moving podcast from American performer Mike Daisey who visited the vast Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, that makes Apple iPhones among other hi-tec crap for us, posing as a businessman.

Foxconn is the suicide centre of tat. At least fourteen workers stepped off the planet through its labour-camp portals in 2010. Workers now have to sign a contract obliging them not to commit suicide. Presumably all 800,000 of them. Probably a world first.

If you can get past the gun-toting guards, you'll see the suicide nets fixed to the base of the huge buildings. Thirty-four hour shifts and cramped cement dormitories may play a part.

Foxconn also makes the Microsoft X-Box. The factory hit the news recently when it promised workers that it would recompense any workers who wanted to resign while employees staying on would be receiving no pay-rise. They reneged and the promised compensation never materialised.

As a result of all the above, industrial relations at the electronics battery farm are not good. Latest in a series of strikes, some 300 furious X-Box workers in the Wuhan campus who had been promised $450 per month to compensate for the move away from Shenzhen and were only paid two thirds of that, threatened a mass suicide. As this wouldn't be good for the company profile, which you'd think couldn't sink much lower, Foxconn settled this week. With some of them.

Labour laws in China are undergoing a rehaul but Daisey's experience shows that it's not happening fast enough. Wages at Foxconn are barely above the minimum rate. Workers are being injured by hazardous chemicals, long hours and machine accidents. When they complain, they find themselves on employment blacklists. And yet fortunes are being made at the top. How did we get here in the first place?

It was ironic to see frustrated Chinese customers protesting and throwing eggs at the Apple Store when sale of the voice-activated 4S iPhone was stopped due to health and safety concerns over crowding at the launch.

Desperate Foxconn workers did write personally to Steve Jobs to beg him to step in. They never received a reply, although Apple have demanded suicide counsellors be made available and forbidden the use of some chemicals. More here.

I am writing this on an Apple MacBook Pro. I do not feel good about this. Unfortunately, I can't afford to replace it. But I have vowed never to have an iPhone or an iPad until they clean up their act. However, given the number of electronics companies who get their products from Foxconn, where are the clean machines?

Podcast extract, Mr Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory, from Mike Daisey's The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

Thanks to Chris Bulow

Apple, iPads and Chengdu explosions.

UPDATE 16 MARCH 2012: The show is pulled due to "fabrications". This is so bad. This American Life investigation podcast here

Apple at fault with Foxconn. Fair Labor Association's findings on Apple and Foxconn

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