M Kayalvizhi, a technical worker in the Foxconn factory near Chennai, is waiting to get into a hostel built by the company as it is safe and also has better facilities than the place where she stays at present.
Foxconn, which manufactures Apple’s iPhones at its factory in Sriperumbudur, has been constructing a hostel for its employees, with food and medical facilities inside it.
“We have been assured a dormitory in the hostel and still we are not sure what other facilities will be provided. But definitely, it will be better than the present place which is 4km away from the factory,” said Kayalvizhi.
The Taiwanese firm makes iPhones in the Sriperumbudur facility where it employs over 15,000 workers, most of them women. In the next few years, the number of employees is expected to go up by thousands as the company is expanding its facility.
In 2021, there was a massive protest by Foxconn employees, a majority of them women, who blocked the highway protesting against the lack of facilities, especially food. “We did not get proper food, and the place we were made to stay did not have proper toilet facilities. Despite complaining, nothing changed. Only after this we protested. We were assured that a good place to stay with all facilities will be provided soon,” said M Kannan, a trade union member.
The protest, which happened in December 2021, mainly by temporary workers, blocked traffic on the Chennai-Bengaluru highway. “We had to protest on December 18, following cases of food poisoning at the factory that led to hospitalisations. The work in the factory was stalled for a few days, and only after the company management assured that the stay facilities will improve, the protest was withdrawn and work started again,” said Kannan.
The Tamil Nadu government released a statement on December 25, 2021, stating that Foxconn agreed to all the demands made by the employees. “It promised to improve the working and living conditions of the temporary workers, such as expanding their living areas, upgrading bathing facilities, and providing drinking water,” said the statement.
“We have not been told as to when the new hostels will be opened but we have seen that the construction is more or less complete, and very soon it will be opened,” said Kayalvizhi.
The new facility will be able to accommodate 20,000 people. Apart from the hostels, the company is also constructing new manufacturing facilities inside its Sriperumbudur plant.
The same model is followed by Foxconn in China too. Apart from Foxconn, State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd (SIPCOT), a Tamil Nadu government-owned company, is also constructing an industrial housing project.
“SIPCOT’s Industrial Housing Project for Foxconn Employees is coming up at Vallam Vadagal, Kancheepuram district. It is progressing fast and a total of 13 blocks, each of S+10 floors with 3120 units is being constructed,” said an additional chief secretary of the Tamil Nadu Government.
A SIPCOT spokesman said the request for a dormitory facility for the employees is one of the sanctioned incentives. This project aims at providing affordable rental accommodation with supporting infrastructure to employees.
The project will consist of 13 blocks and each one will have a stilt and 10 floors. The project will include common facilities and amenities such as the supply of potable water, stormwater drains, solid waste management, rainwater harvesting and solar energy utilisation.
Provisions for recreational facilities such as badminton and volleyball courts for outdoor game activities are also planned in the Industrial Housing Project. The project will have a dispensary, a shopping complex and a supermarket. The accommodation units will be provided with the required furnishing.
The project is envisaged to be developed in two phases. Phase I is expected to be completed in the next few months. This includes seven blocks of residential complexes and two blocks of commercial complexes and other common facilities. Phase II, which includes six blocks of a residential complex, will be completed by March next year.
The Taiwanese electronics giant also agreed to expand the factory, located near Chennai, and hire more workers. In response to the strong domestic demand for Apple products, Foxconn is likely to diversify from China as construction is very brisk on a 20-acre plot near the present facility.
Tamil Nadu is also fast becoming the iPhone manufacturing hub in India, with Foxconn and Pegatron already housing their factories here. Wistron manufactures Apple devices at its Hosur facility in Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu.
“Tata Electronics is working with Apple to design and manufacture mechanical parts for iPhone. It is hiring 8,000 people for its facility near Hosur, which is some five hours away west from Sriperumbudur,” said the official.
The Taiwanese electronics giant also agreed to expand the factory, located near Chennai, and hire more workers. Meanwhile, Foxconn has applied for environmental clearance for the expansion of its special economic zone at Sriperumbudur with its factory area set to increase from 30 acres to 47.61 acres.
“Applying for Environment Clearance is a regular practice as companies need to get this clearance for expanding. As per the MoU with the Tamil Nadu government, the company is free to expand without any additional clearance from the state. But they will have to get environment clearance from the Union Environment ministry,” said the official.
*Name changed on request.