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Rushed iPhone 5 production to blame for Foxconn riot, says advocacy group

25 Sep 2012

Embattled manufacturer Foxconn is being blamed for overworking employees in the wake of a high-profile worker riot.

Worker advocacy group China Labor Watch (CLW) says rushed iPhone 5 production was a factor in the company's Taiyuan factory riot.

CLW says the chaotic schedule during the lead up to the new iPhone launch put workers on edge. The worker advocacy group says the high demand for Apple's latest gadget heightened already indecent work conditions.

"When Apple puts in orders with Foxconn for the new iPhone, it never considers the human rights of the workers, nor the production capacity of its factories. Rather, it is only concerned with sales revenues, PR, customers [and] its own interests," said CTW activist Li Qiang.

"Just as in the case of the riot taking place in Foxconn's Taiyuan factory, a large number of workers are transferred to the factory at one time to produce the new iPhone. This large influx combined with the militaristic management at the factory results in tremendous pressure on the workers, and this may have been a root cause of the conflict."

Around 2,000 Foxconn factory workers rioted early Monday. Reports say that the riot erupted when factory guards began assaulting workers. The violence was said to have quickly escalated into a full on group fight between workers and guards before finally dissipating late into the evening.

The riot at the Taiyuan factory closed down operations for the day. As of this morning reports began surfacing that normal operations have resumed at the plant.

CTW reports that the Taiyuan factory where the riot took place was bringing in additional workers to meet demands for the new iPhone. While working at the plant staff were reportedly required to work 10-hour days and antagonised by company guards.

"Coming from a variety of places throughout China, workers are required to work 10-hour day and night shifts with little rest, receiving low wages, and all the while suffering very strict factory rules on behavior and suffering the verbal and physical abuse of guards," continued Qiang.

"Given such stress, the workers are on edge, and incidents like the one yesterday are more likely to occur. This is especially true of a time in which Apple has given Foxconn large orders for new products, like the iPhone 5."

According to a report from the Digitimes, Apple has sent as many as 150,000 employees to its plants in hopes of keeping up with iPhone 5 demands. Apple sold 5 million new iPhones in the weekend of its release.

This isn't the first time Foxconn working conditions have made headlines. Last June at least 1,000 workers rioted at a Foxconn factory in Southwest China. In August, Apple also praised Foxconn for improving labor conditions at its factories.

Apple was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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