Undercover journalists take video inside Foxconn iPhone 5 factory

By , Dec 14, 2012

The walls around Foxconn’s larger manufacturing facilities are infamously well-guarded. The factories have been the source of a large amount of media criticism due to unfit working conditions, and they rarely, if ever, let press in.

So the folks of Envoyé Spécial, a French 60 minute-like TV program, had to go undercover to get into the Zhengzhou iPhone 5 factory to get the answers to their long-standing questions, like: are things really improving at Foxconn?

Unfortunately, judging by the footage in these three videos, they are not. The clips, especially the second one, actually paint a pretty bleak picture of the living and working conditions inside Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant. See for yourself:

According to the report, many of the dorms you see in the second video are still under construction, and apparently have been for quite some time. They don’t have any elevators, electricity or running water, and employees still live in them.

And the buildings that do have electricity are dangerous. It’s said that a Foxconn manager has warned employees not to plug devices into their dorm’s electrical outlets because eight workers were killed in a fire after circuits overloaded.

It gets worse. The reporters also met several student employees that, although were of age, were working at Foxconn against their wills. They said that school administrators threatened to take away their diplomas if they turned down the job.

The Envoyé Spécial reporters believe that a lot of these issues are a result of Foxconn trying to keep up with iPhone 5 demand. One employee told them that because the handset is so difficult to make, the company has to vigorously recruit in order to offset the turnover from frustrated workers.

In response to the report, Engadget reached out to both Apple and Foxconn for comment. Here’s what Apple said:

“Apple is committed to the highest standards of social responsibility across our worldwide supply chain. We insist that all of our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever our products are made.”

Back in March, Tim Cook visited the Zhengzhou plant while in China and it appeared that conditions at the factory had been improving. But now it’s starting to look like problems are just being swept under the rug while the press is around.

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

    The big problem: Chinese law. Almost every manufacturer have huge failures, im still wondering why people only talk about Apple and Foxconn when Apple products are not the only one who are assembled there.

    Sony PlayStation3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and many other brands are assembled there, and Foxconn it’s not the only manufacturer in china. So, like i’ve said in the beggining, Chinese law if work like they should, none of those shame things will ever happen. But unfortunately, for Chinese Gov, people are “senseless robots”.

    Boycott? I agree… But then we will boycott almost 99% of tech then and not just Apple products.

    Two good things that proof that Apple care about that: manufacturer in Brazil and on a near future, US. So I think Apple is commited to change those things. Now, lets see what other brands that somehow remain “hidden” will handle with this shame.

    • https://twitter.com/AndyScanny Darkstar1062

      Very true. i know apple hates when this stuff gets out because then they take all the heat for it. but in reality its not just them. lets take a step and look at our country and we all know that stuff like this will never happen here because we have laws against it. so to go back to your point, its china’s problem really. they’re the ones that treat their people like robots that can be easily replaced. if anyone takes the heat for this it should be china.

    • http://twitter.com/VuilzakFrak Bram

      Because Apple is at the moment the most wealthy company who produces with Foxconn, they are able to force them to change their policy. Apple employees see how the situation is, they have to go over there to discuss and make the assembly line. Of course they know how the situation is over there. If we see these video’s, how can they not know about it? Apple doesn’t do anything because there is every year a shortage, even with this dictatorship.

  • KevinRajaram

    Apple and its sweatshops smh! You would think them sitting on top of the world with a ton of money, they would atleast help provide better working conditions for the “human beings” that are making the products they are profiting from!

    • https://twitter.com/AndyScanny Darkstar1062

      its Foxconn that needs to be help responsible not apple.

      • KevinRajaram

        Yes I clearly understand that! But you think with all the influence and strings Apple can pull, they can’t push for better conditions to be provided for its employees?

        I really hope they find some better providers and working conditions. I’d be happy to see some production here in the US

      • https://twitter.com/AndyScanny Darkstar1062

        yes i agree im sure apple can do something. but when it comes down to it, Foxconn are the ones that need to really change.

      • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

        They will always say: “yes… we wil do this and that” .. Apple leaves, they keep the shit… Apple goes again for a new audit and they “hide” everything… that’s how they work in China. The problem is bigger than Apple.. (unfortunately).

        All brands that work with Foxconn should stay together and fight this shame.. but even with that, I think it wouldn’t change anything…

  • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

    Anyone able to translate?

  • chjode

    Yes, because Foxconn = Apple.

    • Guest

      Do some research.

      • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

        I think he was being sarcastic. Obviously you didn’t get that.

      • Guest

        If he was sacarstic it would only make sense that he is replying to another comment.

      • http://appadvice.com/authors Chris Conner

        Not really, sarcasm is used to comment as well. I live in the U.K, and we use sarcasm for pretty much everything.

        But just so you understand… The sarcasm was related to the post, not any comment.

  • macboy74

    I love how anything bad that has to do with Foxconn right away Apple is to blame. Correct me if I am wrong but aren’t there 12 other companies that use Foxconn to manufacture their products? Are these other factories giving their employees filet mignon for dinner, a pristine working environment, $5,000 yearly bonuses and a company car? I mean c’mon son. Smfh

  • seyss

    it is easy to be the internet judge without knowing shit about what’s going on..

    I bet if you were in these people’s shoes you’d take the job. it beats the alternative

  • NY

    Nothing but propaganda

  • SimonReidy

    How depressing. I find it a little disturbing that rather be concerned for the wellbeing of the human beings suffering in these deplorable conditions, some people sound far more concerned about defending Apple’s reputation.

    Everyone is quick to point out “its not just Apple” and that’s true. But that’s missing the point. Its clearly on the record that the most complex and demanding devices they assemble at Foxconn are Apple products. And its Apple that is essentially demanding aesthetic perfection for the iPhone 5 (and crazy numbers of phones to fill demand) which has put massive strain on these people and their lives.

    Yes other companies are guilty of using Foxconn, yes the Chinese government are guilty for not regulating basic working conditions, and yes Foxconn should be held accountable above all others – for not adequately preparing their factory, for not providing acceptable living conditions, and for not training workers properly for the extra complexity of building the iPhone 5. However that still doesn’t give Apple a free pass. That’s essentially saying “everyone else is doing it too, so its ok”.

    Just for the record I love Apple, and I own an iPhone 5 but I feel guilty as hell looking at it right now. My first world problem is hoping that it doesn’t get scratched! but that sounds so incredibly petty while people in China are suffering to bring these devices to us. I really don’t feel good about that.

    I hope Apple does a lot more than just issue a meaningless press statement to genuinely help these people. They need to spend millions to fix this miss and send in a team of experts to work out how to overhaul Foxconn to bring it up to acceptable conditions. Its not like they don’t have the money to help fix this. And yes I know Apple have already done quite a lot to help improve Foxconn, but clearly they need to do a lot more. So do ALL companies that have products assembled there.

    • Julian Herbert

      Here here!

    • Guest

      ^so unnecessary..

      @Simon:Best post here by far.. Apple has so much power as far as the decisions of Foxcon go and they should use this – but of course they won’t as long people ignore these conditions and act like it’s okay.

  • JIM

    The real problem are the greedy corporations such as Apple. If they really care about employees or people in general they would ever NEVER move their factories to countries like China, Indian and such. They, corporations, ONLY care about their bottom lines and maximizing their profits at any cost. Why are people defending Apple I have no idea.

    Apple knows what’s going on at these places and that’s why they are there in first place. No union, cheap and I mean cheap labor, no benefits to pay, those who complain are fired. Slavery comes to my mind is the best way to describe it.
    So ladies and gentlemen Apple and all of these greedy corporations will continue to do their business in countries such as China and India as long as they can maximize their profits.
    So stop blaming China, India and such. We know about their human rights. Blame those going there and taking advantage of it for to maximize their profits.

  • http://twitter.com/VuilzakFrak Bram

    What I taught was interesting, but I don’t find it in the article, is that in the last video the 3 students are studying medicine. It has nothing to do with their training! The schools just force them to go work at Foxconn or they lose their scholarship and won’t get their diploma. Their parents tried to negotiate with the schools, but it didn’t work. It’s quite shocking!

  • fsdfsdf3qfsdf

    Well, it is much less bad than I expected, Apple/Foxconn should lower the salary of the people working there…

  • http://www.facebook.com/Touchmanage Touchmanage AndCo

    I am a french guy and I can said to you the conditions are just impossible !
    “The last night, 8 guys wear burned”

  • http://twitter.com/Bonzys Bonzy

    Everyone has a crappy job, some are just worse than others lol
    though they did great building my iphones ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/IanMcleod000 Ian McLeod

    They are a great future model of what it will be like working in the USA in a few years. Still iike saving money, it will only cost you job security, healthcare, your lifestyle but you saved like 20%. Pretty good deal.