Riots have broken out at the Foxconn factory where the iPhone 5 is being assembled. Production was suspended. Reports are that late last Sunday night, approximately 2,000 workers became enraged and began to trash the Foxconn Taiyuan campus. The incident was sparked by a security guard allegedly beating two workers.
Photos show the wake of the workers's destruction. Several interviews that were supposedly done prior to the incident could provide insight as to why the workers were set off.
According to website MIC Gadget, these interviews were done by Wang Yu, an undercover journalist who recently worked at Foxconn and then reported about his time inside. And since he's left the Foxconn assembly line, the journalist describes a sort of "painful muscle memory": every time he sees the Apple logo, he experiences muscle pain brought on by assembling the phone.
While working undercover at Foxconn, the journalist made several close friends with the workers. One of them was a 21 year-old worker named Zhao Fei, who was interested in learning more about business and is getting a management degree from university. But what is he learning from his boots on the ground experience?
"The production line I'm arranged in originally needed at least 17 workers, but due to too many worker[s] resigning recently, there's only 7-8 workers left now," Fei told the journalist. "Despite having not enough workers, we are still being asked to meet the same original production target of 5,600 rear panels a day. We are all overstressed!"
It's not just the stress of trying to hit astronomical targets, but the work conditions.
"The cooling agent used to cool the machines release an unbearable smell which is bad for our nose and our throat," Fei continued. "Originally, we were supposed to be given a new mask everyday, but we are only being given a new mask every week now, this is ridiculous!"
"We are all overstressed!"
Many of the other workers are also young—like Fei. They're young and presumably fit. One, 20 year-old Zhang Qiang, recalled how workers had to go through a fitness test during recruitment and recalled how assembling the iPhone 5 caused his hands to get swollen.
Another young worker named Qian Kai, who studied engineering, told the reporter, "...I've never been to such a large factory before, but now I feel totally at [a] loss and hopeless after I came in..." As these recent riots appear to indicate, he's not alone.
Next to Fei's bed, there's a copy of a book on Steve Jobs. Fei looks up to the Apple founder, professing his admiration for the high quality products his company puts out. But even though Fei is assembling the iPhone 5, don't expect him to get one any time soon: "I will not change my phone as long as it still works, since I can't afford an iPhone 5."
The recent riots at the Foxconn factory seem to be the stress of overworked and underpaid workers coming to a head and lashing out. Clearly there is deep-seated frustration and anger among the employees and no outlet, apart from violence, for that frustration to be released," Geoff Crothall from a labour rights group in Hong Kong told Reuters. "There is no dialogue and no means of resolving disputes, no matter how minor. So it is not surprising when such disputes escalate into violence."
Cheap labor shouldn't mean cheap humanity. C'mon Apple, think different.