The underpaid, overworked Chinese workers of Foxconn have had enough, according to a new report by China Labor Watch: thousands have gone on strike over immense iPhone manufacturing pressure and fistfights with their bosses.
UPDATE: Foxconn is claiming that there are no strikes going on, everything is normal, and that production at all plants is on schedule.
The report comes after both a claimed uptick in working conditions by Foxconn, and a shortage of new iPhones—the most intricate of all time—on Apple's part. The latter, the labor watchdog claims, pushed Apple to demand greater output (and longer hours) by its outsourced labor army—and a steep drop in quality. Simply, people were being asked to build extremely sophisticated things without proper training. Exasperated by stretched hours and seemingly unfair expectations, the workers started beating up quality control staff, caught between enraged labor and indifferent management:
Quality control inspectors fell into to conflicts with workers and were beat up multiple times by workers. Factory management turned a deaf ear to complaints about these conflicts and took no corrective measures. The result of both of these circumstances was a widespread work stoppage on the factory floor among workers and inspectors.
According to workers, there was a fight between workers and quality control inspectors in area K that led to the damage in inspection room CA, the injury of some people, and the hospitalization of others. After this, another similar incident occurred in area K, once again leading to quality control inspectors getting beat up.
CLW's Executive Director, Li Qiang, says the reasons for the strike are simple: "these workers just have too much pressure." This certainly isn't the first time violence has been reported from the iPhone machine, and although the alleged 4,000 striking workers are a tiny part of Foxconn's staff in the hundreds of thousands, it could be enough to slow (or halt) iPhone 5 production. Which means you might have to wait a couple weeks longer for your (blood-spattered?) handset.
China Labor Watch
October 5, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
(New York) China Labor Watch (CLW) announced that at 1:00PM on October 5 (Beijing time), a strike occurred at Foxconn's Zhengzhou factory that, according to workers, involved three to four thousand production workers. In addition to demanding that workers work during the holiday, Foxconn raised overly strict demands on product quality without providing worker training for the corresponding skills. This led to workers turning out products that did not meet standards and ultimately put a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. Additionally, quality control inspectors fell into to conflicts with workers and were beat up multiple times by workers. Factory management turned a deaf ear to complaints about these conflicts and took no corrective measures. The result of both of these circumstances was a widespread work stoppage on the factory floor among workers and inspectors.
The majority of workers who participated in this strike were workers from the OQC (onsite quality control) line. According to workers, multiple iPhone 5 production lines from various factory buildings were in a state of paralysis for the entire day. It was reported that factory management and Apple, despite design defects, raised strict quality demands on workers, including indentations standards of 0.02mm and demands related to scratches on frames and back covers. With such demands, employees could not even turn out iPhones that met the standard. This led to a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. On top of this, they were not permitted to have a vacation during the holiday. This combination of factors led to the strike.
That quality control inspectors would also strike is of no surprise. According to workers, there was a fight between workers and quality control inspectors in area K that led to the damage in inspection room CA, the injury of some people, and the hospitalization of others. After this, another similar incident occurred in area K, once again leading to quality control inspectors getting beat up. Yesterday, inspectors in area L received physical threats. When inspectors reported these issues to factory management, the management simply ignored and turned their back on the issue. For these reasons, all day and night shift inspectors carried out a work stoppage today that paralyzed the production lines.
CLW Executive Director Li Qiang said, "This strike is a result of the fact that these workers just have too much pressure."
About China Labor Watch:
Founded in 2000, China Labor Watch is an independent not-for-profit organization. In the past ten years, CLW has collaborated with labor organizations and the media to conduct a series of in-depth assessments of factories in China that produce toys, bikes, shoes, furniture, clothing, and electronics for some of the largest companies. CLW's New York office creates reports from these investigations, educates the international community on supply chain labor issues, and pressures corporations to improve conditions for workers.
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