Apple’s love of keeping a lid on product details before officially unveiled is not a secret. Now comes word that demand for secrecy has spread throughout Apple’s supply-chain, including its most prominent, China’s Foxconn. The supplier went so far as to rough-up a reporter investigating the company’s Guanlan, China factory.
After a Reuters reporter began taking photos outside the factory, Foxconn guards grabbed him and tried to drag him into the factory. Police later told the reporter: “This is Foxconn and they have a special status here. Please understand.”
In 2009, a Foxconn worker committed suicide, jumping off a dormitory at the Taiwa-based company’s Shenzhen, China factory following reportedly being interrogated by Foxconn security. The worker, Sun Danyong, 25, was being blamed for allegedly stealing an iPhone prototype. The worker’s family was later given $44,000 and a MacBook in compensation.
Three year before the suicide, Foxconn sued two Chinese reporters, asking for $4.4 million, after the duo revealed substandard working conditions.
Although Apple has said its requires suppliers to “treat all workers with dignity and respect,” a 2009 report by Apple found more than half of its partner factories in China did not fairly pay workers and 23 of 83 factories checked failed to even pay China’s minimum wage.
Foxconn’s behavior may be an extreme example of the lengths companies will go to retain lucrative contracts with Apple. Such contracts are laced with confidentiality requirements, including fines for companies believed to have leaked product information. Apple will often pick a supplier just weeks before a new product is unveiled, provide fake products and divide the work among multiple companies to lessen the chance of leaks.
For workers, Apple’s insistence on tight security sometimes means passing through metal detectors and frustration over the Cupertino, Calif. firm asking for unique designs that after being manufactured cannot be used elsewhere.