On Tuesday night, ABC will broadcast a special Nightline episode filmed at Foxconn's facilities in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, exploring the working conditions at the company's factories. That's been a hot topic of discussion for a while now, and thanks to assistance from Apple and Foxconn, ABC has secured rare access to the production lines on which iPads and iPhones are made. As a prelude to the full episode on Tuesday, today some of the findings have been disclosed in a piece on the ABC News website.
In speaking to workers from the production line, Bill Weir gathers a pretty bleak picture of the mental state of someone working at Foxconn: the fast pace of work doesn't allow for much distraction and the one interviewee who does report her mind straying from work says it only moved to the matter of how tired she was. The end result is that "soul-crushing boredom and deep fatigue" have to be overcome on a daily basis, while dorms are unsurprisingly described as cramped and lacking privacy. Overtime opportunities and pay are scarce, resulting in many people coming and going, however Foxconn jobs remain highly sought after. ABC shows masses of people gathered outside Foxconn's plant, looking to get a job inside.
While acknowledging that Foxconn, China's biggest employer after the country's government, produces consumer electronics for all sorts of brands — including Sony, Dell, HP, Motorola, and Microsoft — ABC's focus seems firmly fixed on Apple's relationship with Foxconn, which does appear to be more active than the other companies. When the spate of worker suicides occurred in 2010, for example, it was Apple's Tim Cook that "rallied a team of psychiatric experts," which in turn proposed the safety nets around dormitories to catch suicide jumpers.
Finally, Weir and his team touch on the difficulty of conducting any audits of employment conditions at these factories, as the pressure to keep a coveted job may often discourage workers from being too candid about how that job is done. That issue is compounded by the lack of any collective bargaining powers at Foxconn, though an official from the company says he sees "hope" for the current labor unions to become freely elected and gain more influence, but "it's not here yet." Hit the source link to read the full account.
Update: ABC has now also added a gallery of images grabbed from Foxconn's production plants.