NYU student talks assembling Apple's iPhone 6s & 7 for Pegatron

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In an interview published on Tuesday, a New York University graduate student described working at a Pegatron factory near Shanghai last year as a summer project, where he assembled the iPhone 6s and later the iPhone 7.

While the Q&A session with Dejian Zeng, conducted by Business Insider, revealed little in the way of new information, it did offer a few interesting tidbits about Apple's process of prepping a new iPhone model for manufacturing.

As previously outlined in numerous China Labor Watch reports, Zeng's job involved repetitive, boring work. Initially, Zeng was tasked with fastening an iPhone 6s speaker to its housing with a single screw, repeatedly, over the course of 12-hour shifts. When he was switched to iPhone 7 work in August, his job switched to fastening a camera cowling using two screws.

Zeng noted that when the iPhone 7 went into trial production he would sometimes have nothing to do for hours, only churning out a handful of phones in an entire day. Security, meanwhile, ramped to severe levels, with two security checks plus increased metal detector sensitivity, even forcing women with wire bras to change their clothes.

During iPhone 7 production, Apple staff — referred to as "the client" by Pegatron staff — were on the floor to monitor the process, and factory management are said to have turned the assembly line into a virtual "clean room."

Zeng noted that he only earned $450 per month, with unpaid breaks and effectively mandatory overtime. Most people on the floor couldn't afford iPhones, and so used local Chinese smartphones instead — important, since they were required to use a special Apple-promoted app with training documents and overtime information.

Pegatron itself is said to have offered two days of training, mostly focused on safety, and indeed kept an eye out for safety problems after the fact as well as underage workers.

An Apple spokesperson told BI that the company has staff at the Pegatron factory every day, and performs audits to keep weekly overtime under 60 hours, the average allegedly being 43. Wages are claimed to have grown more than 50 percent in the last five years, passing Shanghai's minimum wage.

Apple audits of Pegatron operations purportedly found 99 percent compliance with the 60-hour limit. Zeng complained, however, that workers do sometimes put in more than 60 hours, and that people barely get enough time for rest, much less some of the training programs they're offered that would allow them to pursue a less grueling career.


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