Often seen as a large company that treats workers poorly, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, Foxconn, one of Apple’s closest partners, gave a rare look inside its Shenzhen factory in an attempt to change its public perception. According to Re/code’s Dawn Chmielewski, the dirty, unkept building exteriors hung with suicide prevention nets belied the “college campus.” She was given a tour of Foxconn’s Longhua facility which is currently home to roughly 140,000 workers, despite not being allowed on the factory floors.

For those of you who didn’t know, a lot of the poor reputation surrounding Foxconn is the result of a highly-publicized rash of worker suicides in 2010. The company has taken steps to ensure that anyone who is contemplating such actions does have the availability of help such as mental health counseling and a 24-hour hotline, both of which are free of charge. Company spokesperson, Louis Woo, told Re/code the following regarding the matter:

Suicide is a very complex event. There's not just one thing [to fix] and there's no more suicide. Any large institution — you will always suffer from that statistical occurrence, no matter what you do. But that doesn't mean we don't have to do anything.
In addition to the therapeutic resources, Foxconn seems to have diversified its geographic operations in an effort to open more rural plants that help workers stay closer to their family and friends. Woo even went as far as saying that physical changes to the plant have also helped.

During her visit, Chmielewski was shown worker dormitories that Foxconn “sought to portray as akin to college campuses,” with up to eight workers sharing each room and workers sharing “identical metal bunk beds with thin mattresses and mosquito netting on top with a desk and storage underneath.” Other amenities included an outdoor track with bleachers, five swimming pools, a movie theater and an internet café where workers can play PC games if they wish to. Furthermore, near the café was a series of restaurants, cafes, banks and shops, all of which were made available to workers as well. Foxconn continued by stating that the company has invested heavily into education, stating that roughly 1.5 million students have completed trade education at the on-site Foxconn University since 2007.

The Cupertino California company has been heavily pressuring manufacturing partners to improve worker conditions in its recent years and even goes as far as conducting audits in its supply chain yearly. In its most recent supplier responsibility report, the company found that 92% of employees were at or below its 60-hour weekly cap on working hours. No supplier was in violation of Apple’s prohibition charging recruitment fees to workers either.

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait for the next supplier responsibility report to see how much the manufacturing partners have improved. As of right now, despite Foxconn trying to change its public perception, the conditions continue to seem far from ideal but still an improvement from previous reports from a few years back.

Source: Re/code