Nightline Tours Apple Supplier Foxconn: Get An Unprecedented Look At The Factory (VIDEO)
Following weeks of intense scrutiny of worker treatment at Apple's Chinese suppliers, the tech giant granted Nightline's Bill Weir unprecedented access to component-maker Foxconn. With over 1 million employees, Foxconn is one of the largest employers in mainland China, and makes parts for many technology companies including Intel, Dell, Nintendo, and, of course, Apple.
Weir, who toured a Foxconn factory in Shenzen, was struck by the insular lives of the 235,000 workers at Foxconn's Shenzen plant.
Many of the workers are teenagers (Weir noted that no one looked over 30) who had come from small villages to labor over high-tech gadgets for 12 hour-long shifts. Not only do they work at Foxconn, but many of them also live there. Weir toured the dormitories, where employees pay $17.50 a month to live seven to a room. According to Forbes, Foxconn employees make about $1.78 per hour.
When asked about their lives at the factory, Weir noted that many of the workers shared complaints similar to any worker: the pay is too low, the food prices too high and they get tired. When asked what she thinks about during work, one young mother of two told Weir, "A lot of the time I think about how tired I am. I think about resting."
Of course, it becomes obvious that working at Foxconn is not like working anywhere else, as soon as the infamous suicide nets come into view. These nets were installed between buildings after a spate of worker suicides in 2010. According to the segment, Apple CEO Tim Cook, then Apple's COO, flew to Shenzhen following the series of suicides and put together a team of experts to examine the issue, and these experts recommended installing the nets. There have been 18 worker suicides at Foxconn since 2010, which, according to Nightline, is well below China's national average.
Weir meets up with Auret van Heerdenan, President of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an organization that Apple has asked to conduct "special voluntary audits" of the working conditions at its component makers' factories. The auditor says one thing he looks in the workers are simply signs of curiosity and liveliness, such as looking up when he walks by. According to Forbes, the FLA is expected to post the results of the audit in March.
Weir reported several facts about productivity at Foxconn's plant. According to his report, it takes five days and 325 hands to make an iPad and 141 steps to put together an iPhone. Weir notes he was surprised by how few machines were in place, and remarked that the gadgets seemed entirely assembled by hand.
Check out a clip from the segment below, and watch the full report on ABC here:
On February 21, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/nightline-apple-supplier-foxconn_n_1293393.html?ref=technology" target="_hplink">ABC aired a "Nightline" segment featuring Bill Weir's visit to a Chinese Foxconn factory</a> responsible for making some of Apple's popular devices. During a tour of the factory, Weir says he "expected more robots" but in fact most of the gadgets at Foxconn are made the old-fashioned way: The high tech parts are put together by hand. For example, iPhones are assembled by hand in 141 steps. One iPad takes five days to assemble and passes through 325 sets of hands.
Two shifts of workers toiling in 12 hour shifts can make 300,000 iPad camera modules in one day, not to mention shape sleek iPads out of "raw hunk[s] of aluminum" at a rate of 10,000 per hour. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
7 To A Room
Many workers live at the factory, where they pay $17.50 per month to live 7 to a room in Foxconn dormitories. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2012/02/22/nightline-goes-inside-apple-factories-in-china/" target="_hplink">The average starting salary is $285 per month,</a> and workers must pay for their food. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
No Free Lunch
Workers get two hour-long meal breaks during each 12-hour shift. They eat together in a cafeteria where they pay $.70 a meal. This is about a quarter of their hourly wage. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
Tim Cook Investigated Suicides
In 2010, after a spate of suicides at Foxconn's Shenzen plant, then COO Tim Cook flew to China to investigate the matter. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">According to Nightline,</a> Cook put together a team of psychiatric experts to examine the issue. It was at that team's suggestion that the infamous nets were installed between the buildings to prevent suicides. There have been 18 worker suicides at Foxconn since 2010. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/15/us-china-apple-idUSTRE81E1FQ20120215" target="_hplink">According to Reuters' interview with Fair Labor Association president Auret van Heerden, the group's initial findings from its audit of Foxconn</a> suggested that the suicides could have been "a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps."
Weir said he was surprised to see how young the workers were. He said many were in their late teens and no one looked like they could be over 30. Many had left their hometowns, oftentimes in the countryside, in order to get jobs at Foxconn. Weir also toured Chengdu and spoke with the relatives of workers who had left for jobs at Foxconn. According to Cult of Mac, <a href="http://www.cultofmac.com/147878/foxconn-employees-say-underage-workers-were-hidden-before-fla-inspection/" target="_hplink">Foxconn may have hidden underage employees</a> when the Fair Labor Association conducted its inspections. While Apple allows for workers as young as sixteen to assemble their products, those eighteen and under are afforded "special protections," <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/02/22/factory_workers_claim_foxconn_hid_under_age_employees_before_fla_inspection.html" target="_hplink">according to Apple Insider.</a> These include not being allowed to perform some tasks and working shorter hours than older workers.
Foxconn Exec Wants To Pay More
When asked how Foxconn would react if Apple suggested doubling workers' pay, Foxconn executive Louis Woo told Weir that the company would welcome a raise for employees. "Why not?" Woo said. "That would be good for the employees and also definitely good for China and good for us."
Workers have to wear static-proof jackets and take "air showers" to make sure the work area remains dust-free. Even one spec of dust could prove ruinous to the iGadgets' delicate innards. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
WATCH A CLIP FROM THE NIGHTLINE SEGMENT