Shutting down iPhone plants: rats, worms, toilets without running water

Today, we’re learning more about what led to the closure of Foxconn’s iPhone factory in southern India – and that makes for a really creepy read.

Yesterday, we learned that Apple ordered Foxconn to suspend production at the factory and put the company on probation until it resolves problems with living conditions in the company’s homes. Only today, however, we get a complete picture of how terrible those conditions were…

Reuters sent reporters to the iPhone factory to interview workers.

For women assembling iPhones at the Foxconna factory in southern India, overcrowded dormitories without water toilets and food that was sometimes crawling with worms were problems to be paid for.

But when the contaminated food made more than 250 workers sick, their anger boiled over, culminating in a rare protest that closed a 17,000-strong factory. […]

The workers slept on the floor in rooms with between six and 30 women, five of the workers said. Two workers said the hostel they lived in had toilets without running water.

“People living in hostels have always had a disease – skin allergies, chest pain, food poisoning,” another worker, a 21-year-old woman who left the factory after the protest, told Reuters. Earlier cases of food poisoning involved one or two workers, she said.

“We didn’t make a big deal out of it because we thought it would be fixed. But now it has affected many people, “she said.

State inspectors also said they found rats in the dormitory kitchens.

A total of 259 workers suffered from food poisoning in this one incident, of which 100 were supposed to be admitted to hospital.

Foxconn has also been accused of deliberately hiring workers he believes are less likely to protest.

Most of the workers are between 18 and 22 years old and come from rural areas of Tamil Nadu, said the leader of the workers’ union. […]

Several activists and academics said employers saw women recruited from agricultural villages working in Sriperumbudura factories as less likely to team up or demonstrate, a factor that made the protests at the non-syndicated Foxconn factory even more significant.

At least four different government agencies are now investigating the factory’s working conditions. Foxconn says it has increased iPhone production too quickly to meet demand and restructure its local government.

Given the extreme nature of the failures, I hope that Apple will now conduct detailed inspections of all Foxconn factories around the world to ensure that this terrible situation cannot be repeated. Although the company sets standards and conducts regular audits, it is clear that the measures taken so far are completely inadequate and that much stricter supervision is needed.

The Reuters article is worth reading in its entirety.

photo: Sudarshan Varadhan/Reuters

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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