Apple assembler Foxconn in the line of fire in India

Hon Hai, the Taiwanese contract manufacturing company
(Image credit: Shutterstock / rafapress)

As it is, Apple is facing delays over production schedules at its assembling units in Asia for various reasons, including chip shortages. And now, its well-known assembler Foxconn's India operations, which were hit earlier this year due to Covid-19 second wave, have again run into trouble due to workers-related issues.

Hundreds of women working at Foxconn’s Sriperumbudur plant near Chennai that assembles iPhones for Apple hit the road in protest against the company management on Saturday. 

The workers were agitated over the state of over 250 of their colleagues, who had taken ill after consuming food at the company provided hostel.

Of these, 159 had been hospitalised, while the others were treated as outpatients at different hospitals.

The hostel kitchen was closed and two of its contractors have been arrested.

What happens to Apple's production schedule?

Workers at Foxconn unit near Chennai protesting

Foxconn workers at Sriperumbudur in protest. (Image credit: Facebook)

Police  also detained closed to 100 people since Saturday for blocking the Chennai-Bengaluru highway. Protests started from December 15, but spread after the health status of those affected remained a mystery. 

The issue snowballed into a big protest after local political social media handles began to amplify the issue. A rumour that eight of the indisposed workers died triggered a massive surge in the agitation. Local police have also arrested a couple of activists for spreading the rumour of deaths.  

Foxconn has not officially responded to the events so far.

Foxconn employs anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 workers in the unit. The numbers are fluid because many are employed as temporary hands depending on work schedule. 

It is not clear as yet whether production schedules at the Foxconn unit here were affected.

Apple assemblers' patchy record in workers welfare

Complaints of workers being put to pressure at the Foxconn facility have been on for a year or two. Apple assemblers, in general, don't have a great reputation for workers welfare in these parts. Last year, another Apple contract company in India Wistron witnessed violent workers protest over salary issues, and the unit was shut down for several months. It reopened only recently.

In Foxconn itself, almost all the workers are not directly employed by the company, they are in the rolls of sub-contracting company or agents.

Most of the workers are holed up in hostels run by the company. These hostels are mostly dormitories with facilities that are less than adequate. Food is outsourced to local caterers who are known to cut corners to make a fast buck or two. 

Workers allege that the company was lackadaisical in its approach after some of them fell ill. The company was forced to act only after the workers arranged themselves into protests.

Apple's famed supply chain, at the core of its success as an electronics major, are always under a cloud for poor occupational health and safety, pollution and work schedules. While Apple has some code for contracted companies, but the Cupertino-based company pushes the ball to its contractors' court whenever there has been a problem.

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Balakumar K
Senior Editor

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.