Apple places iPhone factory in India on ‘probation’ following protests over food poisoning and living conditions

·2-min read
Private security guards stand at the entrance of a closed plant of Foxconn India (Reuters)
Private security guards stand at the entrance of a closed plant of Foxconn India (Reuters)

Apple has put an iPhone factory in southern India belonging to one of its suppliers on “probation” after facing protests over poor living conditions that involved cases of food poisoning and poor quality living facilities.

The decision to put iPhone assembler Foxconn on notice was taken when sit-in protests had broken out after several cases of food poisoning were detected in factory employees.

The factory, which employs 17,000 people, is located in the Sriperumbudur town, near Chennai city in the southern Tamil Nadu state and was shut on 18 December when food poisoning cases were found.

An Apple spokesperson on Wednesday said both the companies found some of the dormitory accommodations and dining rooms for workers did not meet their standards.

But the tech giant did not give details on what it meant by putting Foxconn under “probation”.

More than 250 women, who work and live in one of the dormitories provided by Foxconn, have been treated for food poisoning this month.

At least 159 women have been hospitalised.

The Apple spokesperson said the company had dispatched independent auditors to assess the situation “following recent concerns about food safety and accommodation conditions at Foxconn Sriperumbudur.”

The company said it was working with Foxconn to ensure a comprehensive set of corrective actions are undertaken before reopening the facility.

Taiwan-based Foxconn, meanwhile, apologised for the incident and said it was restructuring its local management team, which ensured taking immediate steps to improve facilities.

“We are very sorry for the issue our employees experienced and are taking immediate steps to enhance the facilities and services we provide,” the company said in a statement.

It added that all employees would be paid while it makes necessary improvements to restart operations.

A government official familiar with the matter told Reuters that Foxconn has been answering queries from the state government.

“Once they get clearances from the government, workers will be inducted and the company will resume production,” the official said.

This is the second jolt for Apple since it expanded its operations in India in a bid to reduce its reliance on its Chinese supply chain amid trade tensions with Beijing.

Last year, Apple had placed another iPhone manufacturing partner on probation after employees vandalised the factory over unpaid wages near Bengaluru city in Karnataka.

Workers had smashed CCTV cameras and glass doors and had tried to set vehicles on fire at the manufacturing facility that was operated by Taiwan-based Wistron InfoComm.

Workers had claimed to have not been fully paid their salaries for months and said they had been forced into working extra shifts.