By Eddie Wrenn
PUBLISHED:09:51 EST, 12 September 2012| UPDATED:11:59 EST, 12 September 2012
For Apple’s American workers, today is a big day, with the release of the iPhone 5.
But behind the scenes at the Foxconn factory in China, tasked with churning out 57 million iPhones each year, there are not so many smiling faces – in fact, the production lines appear to one of gruelling shifts carried out throughout the night as supervisors exhort their workers for more.
Chinese news agency Shanghai Evening Post sent a journalist into the Tai Yuan district’s Foxconn factory undercover, during which the reporter trained for seven days, before spending three days working on on the factory floor, assembling ‘back-plates’ for the iPhone 5.
The journalist, who is keeping his identity secret, kept a diary of his ten day and website micgadget translated it.
Working away: Images taken earlier this year shows workers assembling iPads and the iPhone 5
His diary starts: ‘I have contacted the person in charge of the Human Resource who’s handling the recruitment and I was told that I can work in Foxonn as long as I’m healthy and own a citizenship identity card.
‘When I reached the entrance of Foxconn factory, I was approached by a so-called Foxconn security guard who asked for 100-200 yuan (USD$15-28) to provide me a faster way to start working in Foxconn, but I ignored him.
I was asked to fill in a form to test my current state of mentality. There are about 30 mentality questions for me to answer “Yes” or “No” of how do I feel for the past 30 days.
‘For example one of the questions they asked: “Have you got into a state of mental trance recently ?” Finally after answering all the questions, other workers and I took a bus ride to the Taiyuan Foxconn factory.’
Production line: workers turn up for an intensive training programme before starting work
He continues: ‘The first night sleeping at Foxconn dormitory is a nightmare.
‘The whole dormitory smells like garbage when I walked in.
‘It’s a mixed of overnight garbage smell plus dirty sweat and foam smell.
‘Outside every room was fully piled up with uncleared trash.
‘When I opened my wardrobe, lots of cockroaches crawl out from inside and the bedsheets that are being distributed to every new workers are full of dirts and ashes.
‘When someone has asked about the suicide issues, the management staff didn’t avoid the topic but not willing to discuss too much on it.
‘During the suicide topic discussion, someone has voiced out that the bad living environment will sure lead to more suicides.
‘Also I have noticed that all the windows in the dormitory has been framed behind bars.
‘After the training session we are being arranged to start work very swiftly but it’s already night. We are only allowed to rest during the day time.
‘After all the intensive trainings and briefings, I had a fever and terrible headache before I can even start work.
‘I requested to visit the hospital in the factory, but there’s only one doctor on shift handling 4-5 patients at the same time.
‘When I asked one of the nurse about how can I claim the medical checkup fees, the nurse rudely reply me: “Go and ask your boss!”
‘We have reached the entrance of the production floor with a warning sign that says: “TOP SECURITY AREA”.
‘We are told that if anyone enter or exit the metal detector door and found carrying any metallic stuff on your body such as belt buckle, ear rings, cameras, handset, mp3 players, the alarm will sound and you will be fired on the spot.’
A worker manufacturers an iPad, with workers manually adding components
‘One of my room mates told me that his friend has been fired because he carried an USB charging cable.
‘When I walked into the production floor after passing through the metal detector door, I heard loud sounds of machinery engines and a very dense of plastic smell.
‘Our supervisor warned us: “Once you sit down, you only do what you are told”.
‘The supervisor finally present us the back of the iPhone 5 and shows it to all of us and said: “This is the new unleashed iPhone 5 back plate, you should be honored having the chance to produce it”.
‘Our line is being assigned to use masking tapes and plastic stoppers to cover up the earphone jack and the connector ports of the back plate in order to prevent the paint from being sprayed onto it on the next process.
‘Our supervisor asked us to put on our mask and gloves and see how the seniors work on it. At 11 p.m, we went for a supper and after midnight, we started work again.
‘I’m being assigned to mark placement points on the iPhone 5 back-plate using an oil-based paint pen.
‘I’m being scolded many times for spilling too much oil on the markings.
‘My roommate has being assigned to paste the masking tapes of not more than 5mm wide on the right spots that I have marked.
‘And he has being scolded many times for pasting them too slow.
‘Our supervisor said that these works were actually being assigned to females workers with nimbler fingers, but due to too many workers have resigned lately they have no choice but to assign these jobs to male workers.
‘An iPhone 5 back-plate run through in front of me almost every 3 seconds.
‘I have to pick up the back-plate and mark 4 position points using the oil-based paint pen and put it back on the running belt swiftly within 3 seconds with no errors.
Component after component rolls off the production line, before workers assemble the media devices
After such repeated action for several hours, I have terrible neck-ache and muscle pain on my arm. A new worker who sat opposite of me gone exhausted and laid down for a short while.
‘The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days.
‘We worked non-stop from midnight to the next morning 6 a.m but were still asked to keep on working as the production line is based on running belt and no one is allowed to stop. I’m so starving and fully exhausted.
‘By my own calculations, I have to mark five iPhone plates every minute, at least. For every 10 hours, I have to accomplish 3,000 iPhone 5 back plates.
‘There are total four production lines in charge of this process, 12 workers in every line.
‘Each line can produce 36,000 iPhone 5 back plates in half a day, this is scary … I finally stopped working at 7 a.m. We were asked to gather again after work. The supervisor shout out loud in front of us: “Who wants to rest early at 5 a.m !? We are all here to earn money ! Let’s work harder !” I was thinking who on earth wants to work two extra hours overtime for only mere 27 yuan (USD$4)!?
A back-plate gets put on the back of an iPad, similar to the work this undercover reporter undertook
‘On the next following day, we were all being treated the same way by our supervisors and all of us were very pissed. Every time we picked up the iPhone 5 components, we put it back on the running belt real hard and shout “f***” just to release our stress.
‘One of the seniors advised us to stop work on time at 5 a.m even if the supervisor ask you to over time, as this is not against the regulations. Among our batch of 36 new workers, only two workers were lucky enough to arrange work under the quality control inspection department, where they get to rest 10 minutes for every 2 hours work, unlike the rest of us who have to work non-stop for 7 straight hours.’
MicGadget, which made the original translation, said: ‘We are confounded on the diary on how bad the living condition of the Foxconn workers at the dormitory and the kind of treatment they have received.
‘Though it’s still interesting to know the workflow of manufacturing the iPhone 5 back-plate.
‘Although there is no guarantee of the report’s authenticity, but we still feel that all Apple fanboys should appreciate the hard work from the Chinese workers, as they have worked overtime which is certainly underpaid, just to rush out the iPhone 5 hoping to meet the scheduled of the launching date.’
However, human nature is a fickly thing, for straight away, the author shows his own excitement at getting his hands on Apple’s latest toy: ‘Now we are getting even more excited after roughly knowing the factory’s production workflow of the latest iPhone 5