Indian women who assembled Apple iPhones had to survive on worm-infested food while living in rat-filled dormitories with no running water, according to a new investigation — all for less than $5 a day.

News of the sickening conditions at a factory with 17,000 workers comes as Apple pays vacation bonuses of up to $180,000 to some US engineers.

The situation was brought to the public eye when 159 women were hospitalized with food poisoning in mid-December, sparking a rare protest by workers.

Apple has since put the Foxconn-run factory “on probation” indefinitely and says it will not reopen until it meets its “strict standards”.

The despicable conditions were detailed in a Thursday Reuters survey which included interviews with six women who worked at the factory, located outside Chennai.

Workers said they were forced to sleep on the floor in dormitories, with up to 30 women sleeping in one room. At least one of the dormitories had a toilet without running water, the workers said.

This would have left many women – most of whom are between the ages of 18 and 22 – with a variety of health issues.

“People living in hostels have always had one disease or another – skin allergies, chest pains, food poisoning,” a 21-year-old woman who left the factory after the protest told Reuters. “We didn’t make much of it because we thought it would be fixed. But now it has touched a lot of people.

The workers — mostly between the ages of 18 and 22 — were assembling iPhones for less than $5 a day.

Women working at the factory will continue to be paid while Apple investigates working conditions, according to Reuters. They earn $140 a month, or about $4.67 a day, but have to pay a Foxconn contractor for room and board while they work at the factory.

Several activists and academics have said women recruited from farming villages to work in factories in the region are seen by employers as less likely to unionize or protest, a factor that made the protests at the Foxconn factory – which is not unionized – even more shocking.

During one of the December protests, police beat workers from a nearby factory who had joined the women, then chased some of them down and also beat them, union leaders told Reuters. Police also arrested 67 female workers and a local journalist, confiscated their phones and called their parents with warnings to put their daughters online, the outlet reported.

According to Reuters, police beat women protesting conditions at the factory, then called their mothers and told them to put their daughters in line.
According to Reuters, police beat women protesting conditions at the factory, then called their mothers and told them to put their daughters in line.
Sudarshan Varadhan/REUTERS

The food poisoning and protests have led to at least four investigations by regional state agencies, some of which are ongoing. Officials also privately warned Foxconn to improve working conditions, Reuters reported.

The factory – which is at the heart of Apple’s efforts to move production out of China amid tensions between Beijing and Washington – was first opened in 2019 as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effort to create manufacturing jobs in India. Products for Samsung and Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, are also made at nearby factories.

With post wires


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