Print 29 comment(s) - last by MrBlastman.. on Feb 16 at 11:47 PM

Apple yet again voiced frustration in a report it published on its suppliers' working conditions. It found employees being overworked and child labor being used to assemble its products.  (Source: Apple)

Some say Apple's hard-to-satisfy demands of high quality at ultra-low prices create an environment conducive for corner cutting. They say Apple is thus ultimately responsible for many labor and environmental abuses.  (Source: AP)
Report from Cupertino's top tech firm says Foxconn "saved lives" by its reaction to suicides

Every year Apple hires private inspectors to perform an independent audit of its vast network of global suppliers.  These inspectors scour the partners for signs of labor abuses.  That's a bit unusual in the corporate world that usually casts a blind eye to such things.  What is more unusual is that Apple publishes the report airing its "dirty laundry", so to speak, for all to see.

Like the last couple years, this year's report [PDF] wasn't all roses.  The report found abuses at many of the 127 plants worldwide that make Apple products.

One of the biggest problem areas was child labor.  By law in China children cannot work until they turn 16.  But Apple found that 91 children were working at 10 of its suppliers' Chinese plants.  In one case Apple discovered that a plant had cooperated with a vocational school to fake documents for 42 children to work.  Apple terminated its relationship with that factory.

Another major problem was unsafe working conditions.  In one case, workers at a Wintek plant were using the toxic industrial solvent n-hexane in an assembly and cleaning process.  The company had allowed the building's ventilation system to fall into disrepair and vapors from the organic solvent poisoned dozens of workers.  Apple has demanded the plant fix the ventilation system and stop using the n-hexane.

Other problems discovered include excess working hours and workers being shorted overtime pay.  Also suppliers overcharged migrant worker employment agencies in Southeast Asia $3.4M USD.  Apple is forcing them to repay this sum.

Interestingly, Apple praised embattled supplier Foxconn for its steps it took to prevent more deaths following a spate of suicides early last year.  Foxconn, which employs 920,000 people in China, responded by raising pay rates and installing "anti-jumper" nets on high buildings in its factory towns.  Apple says these measures "definitely saved lives", though it adds, "We were disturbed and deeply saddened to learn that factory workers were taking their own lives."

Despite Apple's unusual openness about its labor problems and its apparent attempts to fix them, it often is criticized as one of the electronics industry's most destructive players in terms of labor and environmental abuses.

The key reason for this is Apple's demand for utmost performance and quality at the lowest cost.  Apple maintains huge margins on its high-end gadgets and it is ruthless in its negotiations to obtain lower prices, dropping suppliers if they can't keep up.

As a result some manufacturers are looking to cut corners in various ways.  For example Wintek used n-hexane at its factory in Suzhou, near Shanghai, because the compound cleaned device screens better than alcohol, leading to lower defect rates.  Wintek never told Apple about the switch, hoping it would give it a secret edge over contract competitors.  The plan obviously backfired.

Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun, of the Center for Public and the Environment, has helped various activists in China to compile a rival report entitled "The Other Side of Apple" [PDF].  The report blasts Apple's quality and price demands, accusing the company of setting up an environment conducive for abuse.

The report surveyed multiple companies and found that Apple was the worst at dodging requests by environmental advocates for investigations, despite its yearly internal study.  Mr. Jun told the San Francisco Chronicle, "We originally thought that Apple, as a corporate citizen, would take a leadership role, but now we feel they ended up as the most obstructive."

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

The funny thing is...
By Motoman on 2/16/2011 10:12:35 AM , Rating: 3
...if this was, say, Martha Stewart products, or Disney products, or pretty much any other brand of products, there'd be so much wailing and gnashing of teeth with protests and media coverage that the stock value of said company would plummet to the ground in a day.

Since it's Apple, though, the net effect will be zero. Hell, they could include random artifacts from each of the child laborers they have building their products and their sales would stay at the same levels.

RE: The funny thing is...
By torpor on 2/16/2011 10:50:08 AM , Rating: 5
Actually, these are exactly the tactics that get Wal-Mart condemned by the very people who tend to be Apple's biggest fans.

Except Wal-Mart passes on the cost savings to customers via low prices.

RE: The funny thing is...
By OoklaTheMok on 2/16/2011 12:56:10 PM , Rating: 4
Rating: 6

RE: The funny thing is...
By AerieC on 2/16/2011 1:28:52 PM , Rating: 2

RE: The funny thing is...
By Tony Swash on 2/16/11, Rating: -1
RE: The funny thing is...
By chick0n on 2/16/2011 12:09:09 PM , Rating: 2
Unions is a joke. Look at UAW. They don't even need to work and they still getting paid, but guess what you can't fired them.

gg :)

RE: The funny thing is...
By Tony Swash on 2/16/11, Rating: -1
RE: The funny thing is...
By themaster08 on 2/16/2011 1:46:05 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously the thing to do is switch to tech products made by another company that are not manufactured in China under such conditions ..... eh....wait a minute.... eh.....

It's not so much a problem with products manufactured in China, more Apple's absolute disregard for the environment and its suppliers.

Most technology companies will willingly take part in environmental and supplier based surveys. Apple sometimes refuses to even take part....

Why is it that Apple is so secretive when it comes to its environmental and supplier responsibility (outside of the bullshit it spreads on its website of course)? Well you're in luck because I'm about to show you.

I hope that you take just 10 minutes from your consumer-driven, small-minded life to just read that article and watch this video.

Apple are one of the most unethical, environmentally unconscious and ill-regulated companies in existence. They're criminals with absolutely no consideration for the welfare of its suppliers and the environment.

Last year 34 environmental protection organizations formed a coalition and approached 29 companies, including Apple, about pollution problems caused by their suppliers. A letter was sent out to all of these companies, of which all of them responded pro-actively. Except one, who still seems to evade the issue. 10 points if can guess who!

So whilst you sit there feeling smug with your iGadget without a care in the world, please take the time to realise what your money is actually funding, and how the lives of others have been ruined and taken away, so that the likes of you can enjoy your shiny toys.

RE: The funny thing is...
By 2bdetermine on 2/16/2011 12:48:38 PM , Rating: 4
“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

Where is their moral responsibility when is come to exploit cheap labor abroad?

RE: The funny thing is...
By Solandri on 2/16/2011 1:23:31 PM , Rating: 4
Where is their moral responsibility when is come to exploit cheap labor abroad?

It's not exploitation. Normalization of wages around the world (basically, bringing up wages in undeveloped countries to levels approaching those in first world nations) requires that business labor be preferentially placed in areas where labor costs are cheap rather than expensive.

You can't just wave a magic wand and make their wages higher. It has to go through a natural economic process where you pay them wages which are relatively cheap to you, but relatively high to them. They get more take-home pay, which they spend on buying more local goods, which increases the amount of business happening locally to them, which increases the overall local wage level, which means Foxconn has to pay its semi-skilled laborers more to keep them working there, which means Apple has to pay Foxconn more to build its toys, thus pushing their wages higher. China recognizes this, which is why it's buying up foreign debt and manipulating its currency to try to get more Western businesses to use Chinese labor. They see it as the quickest way to modernization.

If you insist we only use expensive labor in first world nations, you effectively consign laborers in developing nations to decades if not centuries of low wages as they're forced to grow their own economy without any help from foreign business. So it's actually companies like Apple and WalMart which are speeding up the process of raising their wages, while people who criticize "exploitation of cheap labor" are slowing down the process of raising their wages.

You can make an argument that we have a moral obligation to keep US or EU workers employed rather than shipping their jobs to China. But the morality of an argument against "exploiting" cheap foreign labor is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of economics.

RE: The funny thing is...
By Motoman on 2/16/2011 3:52:26 PM , Rating: 4
Last time I checked, child labor was exploitation - no matter what you were paying them.

RE: The funny thing is...
By Solandri on 2/16/2011 7:14:55 PM , Rating: 2
Was there a child labor case involving Steve Jobs? If there was, I must've missed it. I'm not an Apple fan so I don't follow them closely in the news.

RE: The funny thing is...
By Motoman on 2/16/2011 10:16:49 PM , Rating: 2, then, you didn't actually RTFA?

By solarrocker on 2/16/2011 10:05:51 AM , Rating: 3
Foxconn, which employs 920,000 people in China, responded by raising pay rates and installing "anti-jumper" nets on high buildings in its factory towns.

What the..

Wonder if they are going to jump off the buildings now just for the fun of it.

Now back to reality, must say Apple is trying to help the workers. But did they do this already before they got under fire for the whole Foxconn suicides? If so they are just covering their PR, still it is more then many other tech companies are doing that use the same factories and or technology.

RE: Ok?
By MrBlastman on 2/16/2011 10:49:17 AM , Rating: 5
*waves hand in face of solarrocker*

You see happy workers.
"I see happy workers."
You feel good about how we treat them.
"Man, you guys make me feel warm and fuzzy."
We have the highest standards and our study shows we are the best.
"There is nobody like Apple, hail the great bitten fruit."

The word of Jobs is strong. All will listen. All will obey.

Our workers, they work hard.

They keep costs low. They live in bunkhouses and give up being with their families... for us.

Our workers, they need not sit, they stand, they work hard, they are dedicated to their cause.

Our workers need no breaks, they want to work double and triple shifts. They are fit, they are strong. They need not rest for long.

A few of our workers were adventurous thrill seekers. They thought jumping off the roof was fun. We have nets now, they can amuse themselves constantly. Constantly as they are hearded back to the line. Yes, back to the line, to make us more money.

When they tire, we help replace them. Our workers don't tire though! See their happy smiles. See their bright and cheerful faces.

Our survey says so! Yes, our own independent study proves we make good on our oath to protect and honor. Outside studies are not needed.

"No need for outside studies, the proof has already been provided."

"Praise Apple, praise Apple!"

RE: Ok?
By solarrocker on 2/16/2011 10:59:30 AM , Rating: 2
Wish could rate you up.

RE: Ok?
By Motoman on 2/16/2011 4:17:37 PM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of the wedding scene in the Flash Gordon movie (the one with the Queen soundtrack) - an airplane pulling a banner overhead that says "all creatures will make merry - under pain of death"

RE: Ok?
By MrBlastman on 2/16/2011 11:47:07 PM , Rating: 2
I loved that movie. :)

Your viewing experience is not complete though until you see "Flesh Gordon..." It's umm... a little more graphic. I promise it will disturb you!

RE: Ok?
By espaghetti on 2/16/2011 1:58:06 PM , Rating: 2
I wish I could start a company to make all of the magical things that Foxconn makes (except we would actually have a quality control system), so I could put that crummy company out of business.
All I need to wait for is the value of the U.S. dollar to become worth less than the yuan.....wait about a year or two and look me up.

This is why..
By StraightCashHomey on 2/16/2011 11:02:29 AM , Rating: 2
This is why there is government regulation in the United States. I know conservatives cringe at the word "regulation", but this is what happens when you have lax regulation laws, or you don't enforce the laws you have in place.

Granted, some things may be over-regulated, but we're certainly better off than China.

RE: This is why..
By raddude9 on 2/16/2011 11:39:10 AM , Rating: 1
but this is what happens when you have lax regulation laws, or you don't enforce the laws you have in place.

That's exactly why China has 10 million undocumented Mexicans working inside its borders... oh wait...

RE: This is why..
By StraightCashHomey on 2/16/2011 11:47:36 AM , Rating: 2
What does this have to do with poor working conditions besides absolutely nothing?

RE: This is why..
By chick0n on 2/16/11, Rating: 0
RE: This is why..
By StraightCashHomey on 2/16/2011 12:16:16 PM , Rating: 2
Then show me where to look.

What a good laugh
By DoeBoy on 2/16/2011 10:10:28 AM , Rating: 2
If I were making the percentage that apple is off its products I wouldn't care what happened to the chinese building the things. This is why they have such a huge war chest of money because the chinese don't care about the environment or safety for their people. That is why free trade is never going to be fair trade.

RE: What a good laugh
By AerieC on 2/16/2011 1:40:11 PM , Rating: 2
Well, Apple has to at least make an effort to convince people that they care--which is exactly why they released this report publicly. It's probably less of a serious investigation into the practices of these factories and more of a publicity opportunity for Apple to say "Hey, look at us! We're such good people. We use the same business practices as companies such as Walmart and Nike, but at least we feel bad about it".

The bottom line
By hinchesk on 2/16/2011 11:39:09 AM , Rating: 4
Apple cares about the bottom line, that's it. If they appear to care about anything else it's only because of it's impact to that bottom line, i.e. industrial design, green-ness, PR, perception. Jobs could learn a lot (about being a human being) from Gates.

It's amazing what people will forgive if you give them what they want. Look at Michael Vick... and y'all just wait until Tiger remembers how to play golf again.

unfortunate victim
By kattanna on 2/16/2011 11:50:38 AM , Rating: 2
In one case Apple discovered that a plant had cooperated with a vocational school to fake documents for 42 children to work. Apple terminated its relationship with that factory

thats a shame. cutting off opportunities to kids who actually want to learn and better themselves.

and whats with not allowing children under 16 to work?

News Alert
By struzzin20 on 2/16/2011 4:27:44 PM , Rating: 2
How many doctors does it does it take to prescribe Antidepressants, Pain pills, Anxiety & Speed to a million workers ?????

Ask a Con named Fox !!!

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki