China-based electronics factory Foxconn is best known for being a top manufacturer for Apple’s hardware. It is also associated with other top global brands like Sony, Nokia and Panasonic, producing millions of mobile phones, tablets and computers.
The company, which employs over a million workers in China, has been embroiled in controversy for several years, not least due to Apple’s alleged initial tolerance of human rights abuses of their workers.
Below is a chronology of troubles that have hit Foxconn in the recent past.
January 2013: Taiwanese magazine Next highlights that a Foxconn manager is accused of seeking bribes from parts suppliers, bringing the company under the scanner of Chinese police.
October 2012: Foxconn admits employing 14 year old students at its factories as part of summer internship, in breach of China’s rule of a minimum age of 16 years for employment.
September 2012: A huge brawl at the electronics manufacturer leaves 40 workers injured. As many as 2,000 Foxconn employees were involved in the riot, which the company appeared to play down by claiming it was a personal dispute that spun out of control.
This incident takes place shortly after a Fair Labor Association report concludes that Foxconn had successfully improved working conditions at their factories ahead of a schedule recommended in early 2012.
June 2012: An alleged conflict between a few workers and a restaurant owner results in a riot that involves about 100 Foxconn employees.
March 2012: A 15-month action plan for improving conditions is set up by the Fair Labor Association, after an investigation concluded that Foxconn employees were regularly made to work more than 60 hours a week along with overtime, well beyond the 40-hour-per-week work limit set by Chinese law. Additionally, some of the workers were refused the mandatory 24 hour off even after working for seven days at a stretch.
February 2012: Apple is admitted to the Fair Labor Association and inspection of its top supplier Foxconn’s Chinese plants begins, presenting hope of improving the conditions for workers.
May 2011: At a southwest Chinese plant that makes the iPad 2, a large explosion is reported from a polishing workshop. Three deaths are caused, and fifteen others are injured.
August 2010: A female worker at Foxconn ends her life after jumping off a dormitory building. The company refuses to believe the spate of suicides is linked to work pressures, but families of victims are convinced about harsh work environments driving employees to take the extreme step.
June 2010: Foxconn denies responsibility for worker suicides, and announces an end to condolence payments to families of suicide victims. It claims evidence that one of the workers promised his family that a large sum of money would be paid to them if he killed himself.
In the same month, the founder of Apple makes infamous statements defending the factory, when asked to discuss about worker suicides.
"Foxconn is not a sweatshop", in the words of Steve Jobs.
"You go in this place and it's a factory but, my gosh, they've got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it's pretty nice."
May 2010: Constructors begin installing safety nets around the factory’s buildings. Chairman Terry Gou admits it’s a “dumb” measure, but hopes that this system will save lives when employees decide to jump.
'Suicide nets' installed around Foxconn factory buildings. Image source: http://workersparty.org.nz
Jan to Nov 2010: Suicide rates peak during this period. Of the 18 employees who attempt suicide during this period, 14 die.
Its workers’ deaths result in a nationwide scandal, after which a couple of wage hikes amounting to 30 and 66 per cent are announced.