Labor conditions not improving in China's Apple factory

Apple factory workers in China are still facing hefty work loads, harsh, sometimes demeaning, factory rules, and even sexual harassment, according to one undercover reporter.

The Fair Labor Association in August 2012 said Apple has been doing its part in ensuring its manufacturing partner, Foxconn, is working to improve labor conditions in its production facilities.

However, while Foxconn's labor practices have been tightened up , this does not mean Apple's other manufacturing contractors are equally vigilant. In a report by Chinese new site Wednesday, an undercover reporter revealed that sexual harassment and harsh regulations were still prevalent in a Shanghai factory.

According to the article, the reporter was hired an unnamed mega factory in Shanghai assembling Apple products, which was busy recruiting new factory workers days before the Chinese New Year. Below were some of the reporter's observations:

Sexual harassment
On the second day, the reporter was shown to a training facility in the factory where newcomers were trained. One component of the pre-job training was about sexual harassment, but the reporter discovered such behavior was still rife, even during the training session.

For instance, one young female worker, who appeared to be about 18 years old, was surrounded by three older male workers and was tormented by their filthy language and lewd comments throughout training. The female worker stayed where she was and cried quietly, knowing that if she left the session, she would be penalized.   

"It is very common actually, she is just not used to it," said an unidentified male factory worker.

Harsh factory rules
The reporter also noted that there was no shortage of security staff in the factory. This was likely to ensure rules such as no smoking and no electronic or metal objects allowed in and out of the facility were adhered to. Workers who trigger the security door alarm will be subjected to a body search by guards using handheld metal detectors, and later punished.

Groups of three or more workers must walk in a single file, or face being penalized too.

Toilet breaks were another challenge. The reporter was told by a workshop team leader: "Besides lunch time, you can only go to the toilet twice during the work day, and for only 10 minutes each."

Before leaving their work positions for the toilet break, workers must also find a temporary replacement. One iPad assembly worker said: "I dare not leave my post as no one upstream would wait for me, and no one downstream would do my job. I would have worked in vain if a complaint was lodged against me because of unfinished work."