Working Conditions Still Poor at Foxconn’s iPhone 5 Facility, Reporters Claim

Earlier this year, Apple and Foxconn agreed to improve working conditions at Foxconn’s Chinese facilities after the Fair Labor Association issued a fairly damning report blasting the manufacturer’s often illegal overtime practices. As part of the pledge, the two company’s pledged to improve worker safety, health and wages—but a new undercover investigation by France’s Envoyé Spécial claims that conditions at Foxconn’s new Zhengzhou iPhone 5 factory are far from ideal.

Investigators report that they found workers housed in dorms that lacked basic necessities such as electricity and running water — and they were warned not to use outlets that did have power due to supervisory fears about overloading the circuits and starting a fire.

While the show didn’t find underage workers, it did find student employees of legal age who were told by school officials that they had to work at the Foxconn facility—for lower than normal wages—or face the possible revocation of their diplomas. And as far as the pay raises go, workers claimed that the bulk of their pay still went to Foxconn’s steep room and board costs, along with additional fees the manufacturer thrusts on its employees.

Those charges include a $7 fee for a mental test ostensibly designed to identify suicidal workers. Large numbers of Foxconn employees have committed suicide in the past, allegedly due to working conditions at the facilities. The attempts dropped dramatically after reaching their highest levels in 2010, but earlier this year, 150 workers threatened mass suicide from the rooftop of a Foxconn manufacturing facility.

Foxconn is struggling to keep up with the demand for the iPhone 5. Earlier this year, three to four thousand workers at the very same Zhengzhou facility allegedly went on mass strike to protest unreasonable production demands and tense working conditions. A week or two before that, more than 2,000 workers launched a full-scale riot at a separate Foxconn facility, reportedly due to poor working conditions and outright physical abuse from superiors. It took the intervention of more than 5,000 Chinese police to stop the violence.

Engadget asked Foxconn about the report and was told that “Foxconn takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our 1.4 million employees in China a safe and satisfactory working environment.”

The report comes mere days after the China Labor Watch accused Samsung suppliers of continuing to hire underage workers—a claim that Samsung denies.

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