23 May 2011

A blast broke out at Foxconn’s plant in Chengdu on 20 May evening killed 3 workers and injured 15. The plant is situated in the Processing Zone of Pi County, Chengdu and is a major production site for iPad. Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) expresses our condolences to the deceased workers and strongly condemns Foxconn for its negligence in maintaining work safety in the factory. The explosion is not accidental. SACOM pinpointed the problem of the aluminum dust in the polishing department in our report in early May. Regrettably, Foxconn turns a deaf ear to SACOM’s findings. After the spate of suicides, the blast also affirms Foxconn puts productivity of iPad before workers’ lives.

The company announced an expansion and relocation plan to inner provinces of China in response to the suicide cases. Since last summer, Foxconn has been moving to Chengdu of Sichuan Province, Chongqing, Zhengzhou of Henan Province, Nanning of Guangxi Province etc. Among the new production sites, the Chengdu plant where the explosion occurred was built with a “world record” of 76 days. Terry Gou, the CEO of Foxconn, proudly stated that the plant was accomplished in line with Foxconn’s speed.

In March and April, SACOM conducted investigations at Foxconn’s plants in Chengdu. The work safety in both northern and southern campuses is alarming. Construction and production take place side by side at Foxconn in southern campus. The workers have to walk on a rugged and stony path everyday. In some of the production buildings which are in operation, construction work is still in progress. Construction materials like reinforcing bars and bricks are piled on the road side. And construction vehicles run on the campus frequently. The production units and canteen are also full of dust just like the construction site. This raise the issue of job safety as workers are working on the construction site without adequate protective equipment.

The tragedy happened in the polishing department of Foxconn and involved an explosion of ultra-light dust. Workers complained to SACOM that the ventilation of department is poor. Workers polish the iPad cases to make them shinny. In the process, there is lots of aluminum dust floating in the air. Workers always breathe in aluminum dust even though they put on mask. When workers take off their cotton gloves, their hands are covered with aluminum dust. Regardless the explosion, this is detrimental to the health of workers.

On 6 May, SACOM published an investigative report, Foxconn and Apple Fail to Fuifill Promises: Predicaments of Workers after the Suicides, which documented a number of occupational safety issues at Foxconn. In addition, the New Generation Migrant Workers Concerned Group of the Peking University and Tsinghua University has released a report, Moving to the West: Report on Foxocnn’s Relocation, also highlighted the problem of inadequate personal protective equipment at Foxconn’s plants Chongqing and Chengdu. Disappointedly, Foxconn does not pay attention to the criticisms of the labour rights groups. And it is outrageous that the company has not apologized to the victims and the workers for its negligence in ensuring work safety.

On 22 May, a SACOM researcher went to Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital where the victims of Foxconn blast are hospitalized. The wailing parents were surrounded by about 20 police and propaganda department officers. No one is allowed to approach the victims’ families for information of the tragedy. The propaganda department officers barred SACOM researcher to take picture and the police even used violence to the researcher. With no doubt, the arrangement is with Foxconn’s acquiesce.

SACOM categorically demands Foxconn and Apple to:

  1. release the victim list and apologize to the victims and their family;
  2. set up independent investigation group to examine the cause of the explosion and release the findings to the workers and public;
  3. hold the management accountable for the explosion;
  4. compensate and provide treatment to the victims immediately; and
  5. work with labour rights group on work safety at Foxconn and provide pre-post and on-post training, health examination, adequate protective equipment for all workers.