Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Apple is sending independent auditors to investigate an iPhone assembly plant in India after poor working and living conditions at the factory led to workers going on strike.

The facility in South India is operated by longtime Apple partner Foxconn. An investigation by Reuters found that women who worked in the factory, working under extremely difficult conditions, were forced to sleep on the floor in overcrowded dormitories and shared toilets with no running water. Recently, an outbreak of food poisoning left 150 people hospitalized, forcing workers to go on strike and shut down the factory on December 18.

In response, Apple says it has put the factory to trial (though the company hasn’t said what this means for Foxconn or the workers who assemble the iPhones). The factory employs about 17,000 people and is located about 40 kilometers west of Chennai.

An Apple spokesperson told BBC news: “Following recent concerns about food safety and housing conditions at Foxconn Sriperumbudur, we sent independent auditors. We have found that some of the remote dormitories and dining rooms used for employees do not meet our requirements, and we are working with the supplier to ensure a comprehensive range of corrective measures is implemented quickly.”

Foxconn apologized for the poor conditions and, as reported by the state government of Tamil Nadu, has agreed to upgrade its facilities, expanding living areas, improving bathrooms and providing drinking water. The company says it will soon resume work at the factory.

The news illustrates the difficulties Apple faces as it shifts production of its gadgets out of China. According to reports in recent years, the iPhone maker has urged suppliers like Taiwan-based Foxconn to move production to other countries, such as India and Vietnam. This is because Apple has been criticized at home for outsourcing production tasks, and pressure in China to comply with Communist Party demands on censorship and access to data. By moving production out of China, other parties have less influence on Apple.

Apple has been criticized repeatedly for the working conditions when building its hugely profitable gadgets. Foxconn factories, in particular, have come under scrutiny for their sweatshop conditions and worker suicides.

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