Hands up if you're a happy Apple worker!
Share this article:
Shanghai - If you’ve ever thought your job was dreary, regimented and ruled by stifling routine, then spare a thought for these workers.
Come 9am each day, they stare into face scanners and swipe badges at security turnstiles to clock in.
Then, wearing a uniform of pink overalls, blue hats and plastic slippers, they line up with military precision in neat rows with their hands behind their backs for roll call.
After shouting ‘good morning’ in unison, they are scanned in by shift supervisors – and within six minutes they are on the factory floor assembling smartphones.
They are part of the 50 000-strong workforce at a secretive factory in China where iPhones are produced for Apple – which has been accused of being a ‘sweatshop’.
These pictures were taken as Pegatron, one of the world’s biggest contract electronics manufacturers, opened the doors of its plant in Shanghai to Western journalists for the first time. Its workers wear ID badges linked to a database that tracks their hours, wages and even how much they spend on lunch.
Giving a tour to a reporter from the news agency Bloomberg, factory boss John Sheu – known as ‘Big John’ or ‘the Mayor’ – said the system was introduced to improve efficiency, adding that ‘every second counts’. But he said it also allows the company to monitor when staff are working too many hours by sending managers automated messages if they near the 60-hour weekly limit, or have clocked in six days in a row.
Three years ago Apple was accused of allowing underage workers and illegal overtime at its factories. Experts were sent to investigate a string of deaths at Pegatron – but said they found no link to working conditions.
As workers enter they must pass through metal detectors designed to weed out any cameras that could be used to leak details of new technology. They then climb a stairwell which has a safety net across the middle – to prevent accidents or suicide attempts.
Oxford University academic Jenny Chan said: ‘The fact they let a reporter in shows that they are responding to external pressure and trying to be more transparent.’
According to China Labour Watch, base salaries are so low employees are forced to work overtime just to get by. One said her pay was just 2 020 yuan (£215) a month.
Electronics industry guidelines cap overtime at roughly 80 hours a month. Apple said its suppliers, including Pegatron, stick to this international code of conduct.