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Working Conditions Improved in an Indian iPhone Factory, Yet Low Wages Persist

A Foxconn factory in India was temporarily shut down in 2021 due to the disturbing conditions experienced by its workers. These seasonal workers, many of whom come from other countries, were faced with unsanitary living conditions. Some of the reported violations include rats, malfunctioning toilets, and food infested with worms.

The Indian government conducted an inspection and found additional violations that posed a significant health risk to Foxconn employees. Consequently, Apple sent its own inspectors and decided to temporarily close the factory. At the time of the factory closure, 150 employees were hospitalized due to food poisoning.

In response to these conditions, an Apple spokesperson stated, “Following recent concerns about food safety and accommodation conditions at Foxconn Sriperumbudur, we dispatched independent auditors. We found that some of the remote dormitory accommodations and dining rooms being used for employees do not meet our requirements and we are working with the supplier to ensure a comprehensive set of corrective actions are rapidly implemented.”

Four government agencies in India also carried out investigations, and although the results were not made public, TIME magazine obtained an unreleased government document and interviewed Foxconn workers. Many of these workers rely on their jobs to support their families and expressed their struggle for survival.

The government inspections revealed that six workers were not provided with protective gear such as goggles, chemical-resistant gloves, and respirators. In one area of the factory, where soldering was done, the ventilation system was inadequate, resulting in a highly hazardous environment for employees. Additionally, workers in another part of the facility were not given suitable eye protection, and numerous machines lacked safety mechanisms. Furthermore, six large ovens used to attach small components to iPhone motherboards were not properly tested before being used by workers.

The factory also violated employment laws, with at least 17 employees being required to work on Sundays, their only day off. The report also pointed out that the cleanliness and sanitation of the toilets and urinals were not maintained.

Both Foxconn and Apple acknowledged the issues and claimed to have taken action. A Foxconn spokesperson stated, “We took measures and addressed every issue the government raised from its inspection. The health and safety of our employees is a top priority for Foxconn.” Apple, on the other hand, stated that the problems at Foxconn Sriperumbudur were investigated and addressed a year and a half ago, and the facility was placed on probation. They mentioned that significant improvements were made, with regular audits and visits to ensure progress.

While the conditions have improved since then, some issues still persist. According to assembly line workers, they sometimes have to assemble up to 520 iPhone units per hour, which translates to one phone every seven seconds. Considering their low salaries, ranging from $0.99 to $1.22 per hour, it would take the lowest-paid workers at least six months to afford an iPhone 15 without accounting for rent, food, or family support. One worker expressed dissatisfaction, stating, “When I compare my salary to the cost of an iPhone, obviously they can pay me better.”

It is apparent that although improvements have been made, more needs to be done to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of workers at the Foxconn factory in India.

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