New York University graduate student Dejian Zeng spent his summer break last year working in a Pegatron factory in China, assembling iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 handsets. He got to experience first hand what life is like for a factory worker in the country.
Zeng sat down with Business Insider for a lengthy interview, where he discussed his experience, giving an inside look at working conditions for Chinese workers at the assembly plant of one of Apple’s production partners.
Zeng shared with BI:
- He was paid 3100 yuan (about $450) and housing for a month of work, including overtime.
- He slept in a dorm room with seven other people.
- What happens when a factory starts producing an unreleased iPhone.
- Factory workers usually cannot afford new iPhones.
- There’s an Apple-promoted app that the factory wants all its workers to download.
- Why it can get stinky in the factories.
- Why he believes iPhone manufacturing will never come to the United States.
Zeng’s first job at the factory was in final assembly, where he added a speaker housing screw, and then did it again for the next one, and the next one, and… Deng says the repetitive process was “very boring.”
Employees on the Pegatron assembly line are not allowed to bring in electronic devices, so there is no entertainment allowed while doing the job.
While Zeng was originally involved in assembly of the iPhone 6s, the factory transitioned to iPhone 7 assembly in August, ahead of the device’s September launch. He says security ramped up greatly for the manufacturing of the then unannounced and unreleased device.
Zeng says the sensitivity of metal detectors was increased, allowing no metal through the gates of the factory, not even the wire in underwire bras were allowed.
Apple employees are present onsite during the ramp up of a new product, says Zeng, to make sure there are no issues with the assembly of a new product.
When we were producing the iPhone 7, they have Apple staff there every single day to monitor the process because it’s a new product they want to see if there are new problems.
The management of the factory becomes very, very careful. It needs to be very, very clean. All the case holders need to be in the exact position of where they should be. The process changed a lot because it used to be just an assembly line. They made it a clean room, like they want to keep the dust out.
Zeng worked up to 12 hours per day, but was only paid for 10.5 hours each day, due to unpaid breaks, He earned around $450 USD per month, including overtime pay. The company provides dorm-style housing for employees, but they are required to pay for their own meals.
He shared with BI that factory jobs are not hated and they are not liked, and are simply considered as a means to an end.
The only thing that we’re thinking about is really money, money, money. I need to get some money from my family, I need to support my life, support my kids.
Zeng says Pegatron safety training was “very careful,” and the company offered thorough training to new employees. Training takes two days, and most of the focus during that time is on safety.
Zeng’s full interview with Business Insider is available on their website, and makes for informative reading.