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Foxconn: Behind-The-Scenes Nightline Video Of Apple's Assembly Line

By Tony Ibrahim | Friday | 24/02/2012

ABC's Bill Neil was granted unrestricted access to the assembly line where Apple's iPhones and iPads are made. His 15 minute report featured on Nightline has been uploaded to YouTube and documents a stark contrast between dehumanising repetition, stringent working conditions and a bleak way of life.

Click to enlarge
A Foxconn Assembly Line

Neil's visit was the "very first time any reporter from any country has been allowed to see [Apple's assembly line.]" He claims the assembly line was previously off limits because witnessing it might deter customers from buying Apple products.

"I don't know about you but when I'm enjoying a delicious steak, knowing where it came from changes the experience."

Upon entering the assembly lines where iPads and iPhones are born, he is obliged to put on a static proof suit and have numerous air showers to ensure no dust perverts production lines. 

The production line itself appears clinical and emotionless. The workers are "young-but not 13 or 14," with 17 and 18 seeming to be the popular age. He notes "no one looked over 30."

Neil also expected to see more automated robots building "the world's most popular objects of desire," but was confronted with a myriad of people performing the same repetitive tasks, often thousands of times.

"They're mostly made by hand after hand after hand." It takes 325 sets of hands 5 days to make a single iPad.

<div class="htmlEditorPageBreak">- Page Break -</div>

Assembly worker Shao Ying sits at the end of the production line and carves the aluminium burrs of 3,000 iPads every shift. A supervisor might give the occasional order, but on her production line it's a "fembot" voice uttering "OK" a few thousand times a shift. Neil asks Ying, a mother of two, what she thinks about as she undergoes the repetitious task.

"A lot of the time I think about how tired I am. I think about resting."

Per every 12 hour shift, the employees get two breaks and may spare some of the time for a small nap at their work stations. The Chinese supervisor insists they're undergoing a post-meal ritual rather than giving into exhaustion.

After their shifts many of them retire to a small dorm—no bigger than a double garage—which they share with 7 other employees.

There's an internet cafe, a soccer field, various studies and counsellors, but most of them are there for the US$2 an hour salary. The lack of employment opportunities in China sees 300,000 people line up at a Foxconn recruitment day in which 80% of them are hired.

Some naïve applicants are confronted with a reality harder than expected. More than 9 Foxconn workers have committed suicide by jumping off the Foxconn building, motivating the company to install nets right around it.

"If you ever visit the Foxconn Factory in China Shezhen you cannot miss the nets…and it's hard to get them out of your mind when you leave," Neil says.

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Another incident involved the combustion of dangerous aluminium dust which killed 4 and injured 77 workers.

Since, The Guardian reports Apple has paid $250,000 to join the FLA who will perform the first external audit of the facility and its working conditions. Despite Apple flipping the bill, the association doubts the integrity of the investigation will be compromised.

Neil asks Foxconn executive Louis Woo what if Apple was motivated 'out of the goodness of their hearts' to pay everyone who touches an iPad double?

"Why not? That would be good for the employees, right, and very good for China, and good for us because we would have more stable workers who would love to work for our company because they would get paid more than anyone else."

The video has been on YouTube for just 2 days, but has already been viewed over 100,000 times.

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