CNN is the latest to visit Foxconn factories contracted by Apple, and begins its report introducing readers to Miss Chen, an 18-year-old student from a village outside of the southern megacity of Chongqing whose name was changed for the story to protect her identity. She reportedly works over 60 hours a week assembling iPad tablets for Apple, but has never actually seen one of the popular gadgets fully assembled.
"Wow, I want it," Chen said when CNN produced a finish product for her inspection.
Miss Chen has allegedly been threatened by Foxconn, as well as all of her colleagues, not to talk to any reporter hence a "criminal liability [that] shall be investigated according to law." News of a media ban isn’t surprising given that local rights groups claim that Foxconn's stringent military-like culture is "one of surveillance, obedience and not challenging authority." Workers can either obey the rules or find a job elsewhere... if you can.
A poor college student with no work experience, Miss Chen told the network that she was offered a one-month position at Foxconn during the Spring Festival. She was promised great benefits and very little overtime. But once she arrived at the plant, she quickly discovered that only senior members receive benefits and sick leave time. She is also forced to work overtime on a regular basis.
"During my first day of work, an older worker said to me, 'why did you come to Foxconn? Don't ever think about it again and leave right now'," said Chen. "Foxconn employees have a saying, 'they use women as men and men as machines.'"
According to the report, Miss Chen's job is to apply more than 4,000 stickers a day onto iPad screens by hand. She's done this for the past three weeks, working over sixty hours per week in an assembly line. "It's so boring, I can't bear it anymore," she said. "Everyday is like: I get off from work and I go to bed. I get up in the morning, and I go to work. It is my daily routine and I almost feel like an animal."
Miss Chen, who believes humans are doing machine work because it's cheaper, plans to return to her studies at a Chongqing university soon. She's ready to head back and study hard so she'll never have to return to Foxconn again. She aspires to become a biologist, CNN reports.
Naturally Foxconn and Apple responded to the article. According to the former, the company takes its responsibility to employees very seriously. "We work hard to give our 1.2 million employees in China a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that are competitive with all of our industry peers in that location," Foxconn states.
Apple claims that it cares about every worker in its worldwide supply chain. "We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made," Apple said. "Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple."
The interview was reportedly conducted at a restaurant outside the factory. This was the first meal she had eaten outside the facility since she signed on as a worker. As previously reported, Foxconn workers eat, sleep and work within these "mega-facilities" without ever having to leave.