Apple's Foxconn workers want to work more, dislike food

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:12am IST

Employees eat their meal on a guardrail of a bridge near Foxconn recruitment center in Shenzhen, Guangdong province February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Tan/Files

Employees eat their meal on a guardrail of a bridge near Foxconn recruitment center in Shenzhen, Guangdong province February 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Tan/Files

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Chinese workers who assemble Apple Inc's iPads and iPhones are young, mostly male and a large number of them do not live in their employer Foxconn Technology Group's much-maligned dormitories.

Maybe it's the food.

The survey of more than 35,000 Foxconn workers revealed that 71 percent of them don't think the factory canteens serve good food, according to the results of an extensive survey of three of Foxconn's China factories undertaken by Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group Fair Labor Association.

Also, nearly 48 percent of the workers disagreed with the premise that the canteens in the factories were clean and hygienic.

Many of the workers also would like to work more hours and make more money, which could now be difficult with the expected curtailment in working hours.

This sentiment is typical of migrant workers in China, FLA President Auret van Heerden said in an interview.

"Migrant workers go to find work with a view to make as much money as they can in the shortest time as possible," van Heerden said. "So they do push for extra hours, especially overtime hours that are paid at a premium."

This could potentially cause some tension and calls for "very, very careful consultation" with workers during the execution of the agreement, he added.

Apple's main manufacturer of iPads and iPhones, Foxconn - an affiliate of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry - has been in the spotlight for the past few years for its poor labor conditions, with reports of employees committing suicide.

FLA has been conducting an audit of the working conditions since February at Foxconn facilities in Guanlan, Longhua, and Chengdu in China.

YOUNG, MIGRANT POPULATION

The survey revealed the average age of workers building Apple products was 23 and over 60 percent of them were male. Also, less than 6 percent of workers in the three facilities were between the ages of 16 and 18.

Foxconn largely runs these factories with migrant workers or people who have come from other countries or regions looking for jobs.

But while almost all of the workers in the factories in Guanlan and Longhua were from other regions, less than 40 percent of them stayed in the company's infamous factory dormitories.

Foxconn has in recent years encouraged workers to move out and live outside, van Heerden said.

"They took a decision a couple of years ago that running accommodation is not one of their core competencies," he said. "Even the dorms that are on campus, I think that they've subcontracted them all to property developers."

The percentage of workers living in dorms in Guanlan was 29.3 percent, in Longhua 37.52 percent, and in Chengdu 69.61 percent.

Foxconn has about 1.2 million employees and many of them churn out products for the world's leading computer and phone companies in round-the-clock shifts. Foxconn's dormitories have been described as crowded with multiple bunk beds occupying small rooms.

About 16 percent of the workers surveyed said the dorms were "very much" crowded while another 19 percent said "yes, a little." Survey results from over 50 percent of the workers to that question was designated as "not applicable."

Most of the workers in the three factories were employed as "operators," with engineers making up less than 4 percent of the worker population in the two Shenzhen factories, Guanlan and Longhua.

In Chengdu, nearly 11 percent of the workers were engineers, according to FLA.

A majority of all those surveyed said that the compensation does not meet their basic needs.

There were times when some employees worked more than seven days in a row, mainly because of high labor turnover, gaps in production and capacity planning.

An issue that was of particular concern to workers was aluminum dust, which caused an explosion in Foxconn's Chengdu factory.

(Reporting By Poornima Gupta; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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