India: Around 2000 women workers stage protest over living & working conditions in Foxconn iPhone manufacturing plant after workers are hospitalised with food poisoning; incl. company comments
In December 2021, women workers from a Foxconn iPhone assembly plant in Tamil Nadu, India staged a protest on the Chennai-Bangalore highway, calling for better working and living conditions, and decent employment. This was in response to concerns after over 250 workers living in a company-provided hostel became ill with food poisoning, with 150 workers being hospitalised and another 100 workers requiring medical treatment.
While a small-scale protest began from 15 December, the lack of communication from the company, contractors, and health and labour department officials regarding the condition of the affected workers, as well as rumours of the death of two workers, resulted in mass protests erupting, with around 2,000 women from nearby Foxconn hostels joining.
The workers demanded that the authorities provide full details about the affected workers and their condition, take action against the contractor and hostel administration, and take measures to improve living and working conditions. They also urged Foxconn to take responsibility for workers’ well-being.
According to a local union leader, workers were chased and attacked by the police during the protest. Sixty-seven workers and activists supporting the workers were arrested.
According to reports and investigations following the protests, the workers stayed in crowded, windowless hostels, with 20-40 workers in rooms fit for 10, that lack proper ventilation as well as access to water or sanitation, including toilets with no running water. Workers are also provided low quality, unhygienic food, including vegetables and weevil-infested rice, prepared in rat-infested outdoor kitchens. One worker reported that despite women showing photos of worms in their food to the supervisor, no action was taken. She also explained that workers had access to water for only one-and-a-half hours before their shift.
Foxconn suspended operations on 18 December, promising improvements, after Apple announced the plant was 'on probation' and placed a hold on all orders.
Further company comments can be found below.