Print 65 comment(s) - last by Bobby2000.. on Feb 1 at 12:30 PM

Foxconn factory in China  (Source:
According to Apple executives and Foxconn management, safety is the last thing on Apple's mind

For hardcore Apple fans, rushing out to buy the next iPhone or iPad is a top priority -- even if it means standing in line for hours. But in the words of an anonymous former Apple executive, most people would be disturbed if they knew where their iPhone came from.

Apple's history with suppliers that are abusive to their employees is no secret. Foxconn and Wintek are among Apple's electronics suppliers that have factories in China with horrible working conditions, but no matter how many times violations of Apple's supplier code of conduct are brought to light, the situation remains the same. Now, The New York Times has taken a closer look at the bleak environment that the employees of Apple's Asian suppliers are forced to deal with in its second installment of its iEconomy series.

Apple's supplier code of conduct, which was developed in 2005, states "that working conditions in Apple's supply chain are safe, that workers are treated with respect and dignity, and that manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible." While this code was made with good intentions, it is not being upheld entirely by Apple or some of Apple's suppliers. Employees have complained of working long hours, unsafe working conditions and little pay -- all in the name of assembling iPhones, iPads and iPods at a rapid pace.

"You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards," said a current Apple executive, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive topic. "And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China."

Foxconn, which is Apple's electronics supplier in Chengdu, China, is one of the worst offenders of Apple's supplier code of conduct. Employees and worker advocates have both described the horrible conditions that workers must endure. Many work over 60 hours per week, putting in an obscene amount of overtime. Some work 12 hours per day, six days or more per week. Signs on the walls of Foxconn offer reminders such as, "Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow." There are 24-hour shifts, and 70,000 of the employees are crammed into tiny dorms when they have some time off. At times, about 20 workers would be stuffed into a three-bedroom apartment. There were also issues with the employment of under-age workers.

As if exhaustion and crowded living spaces weren't enough, the conditions within the actual factory were well below satisfactory. Aluminum dust clouded the Foxconn factories due to machines that polished iPad cases, and the factories had poor ventilation systems. A Hong Kong advocacy group called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior published a warning, which was sent to Apple, to let the company know about the potential dangers of aluminum dust buildup.

The warning clearly went unnoticed, since two Foxconn factories exploded as a result of the aluminum dust. The first occurred in May 2011 in Foxconn's Chengdu factory, which killed four people and injured another 77. The second occurred in Shanghai and ended up injuring 59 workers while hospitalizing another 23.

The explosions weren't Foxconn's only high-profile issues over the last few years. In 2010, Foxconn's Shenzhen factory, which is responsible for Apple's iPods, iPhones and iPads, experienced a series of employee suicides due to the stressful and exhausting working conditions. There were at least 12 suicides during this time period as well as a riot. To address the issue, Foxconn made employees promise not to kill themselves and installed anti-suicide nets at its facilities.

"Conditions at Foxconn are anything but harsh," wrote Foxconn in a statement after the riot. "All assembly line employees are given regular breaks, including one-hour lunch breaks. Foxconn has a very good safety record. Foxconn has come a long way in our efforts to lead our industry in China in areas such as workplace conditions and the care and treatment of our employees."

Even Apple seemed to defend its supplier's factories overseas. Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO, made the factories sound like theme parks.

"I actually think Apple does one of the best jobs of any companies in our industry, and maybe in any industry, of understanding the working conditions in our supply chain," said Jobs. "I mean, you go to this place, and, it's a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they've got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it's a pretty nice factory."

Jobs' statement seems to contradict the company's own audits, though. Apple has been publishing audits of its supplier's factories since 2007, and completed 396 walkthroughs by last year. Each year, there have been several and consistent violations to Apple's supplier code of conduct. For instance, in 2007, Apple completed three dozen audits where two-thirds demonstrated employees working over the 60 hour limit. There were also cases of underage workers, falsified records, improper disposal of hazardous waste and cases where workers were paid below minimum wage (or even nothing at all) as punishment.

"Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost," said Li Mingqi, a former Foxconn Technology manager at the Chengdu factory. "Workers' welfare has nothing to do with their interests."

Source: The New York Times

Comments     Threshold

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

RE: There's nothing Apple can do.
By 3minence on 1/27/2012 10:03:23 AM , Rating: 2
Apple is doing the only thing they can to meet the insane demand on their products.

So that makes everything ok? They can abuse their employees, create dangerous work environments, withhold pay, etc, because its what they have to do?

Is it ok to dump industrial waste into rivers because its too expensive to dispose of properly? Is it ok to turn people into Soylent Green because other people are hungry? Dude, God help us if you ever become king for a day.

RE: There's nothing Apple can do.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/27/2012 10:20:26 AM , Rating: 2
You really need to relax kid. NO, those things are not okay. But Apple isn't the one doing that. The Chinese Government is!

Is DT so anti-business that even something this clear cut needs to be twisted this much?

RE: There's nothing Apple can do.
By 3minence on 1/27/2012 11:01:39 AM , Rating: 2
But Apple isn't the one doing that. The Chinese Government is!
Actually, Foxconn is. The Chinese government is allowing it along with Apple and any other company that buys from Foxconn and company's like Foxconn. The Chinese government and Apple are 'Enablers', they allow or encourage a bad situation to exist. By saying "hey, it's needed for business" you not much better they they are.
You really need to relax kid.
I'm no kid and I've worked for some of the best companies and a few that were pretty bad; I can sympathize with the Foxconn workers. I'm lucky that I live in a country where I can leave a lousy job and have a good chance at finding another one that is acceptable, they aren't that lucky.
Is DT so anti-business that even something this clear cut needs to be twisted this much?
I'm not DT, I speak for myself. I am not anti-business, I'm pro ethical business.

RE: There's nothing Apple can do.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/27/2012 11:13:05 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not going to sit here and try to defend Apple's ethics. I don't like them enough, frankly. My point is that the supply chain, the scale and speed, and the demand dictate that Apple is doing the only thing they can do meet the demand needed to produce their product. And it's not just Apple, it's everyone.

I can sympathize with the Foxconn workers.

Again you're applying your Western ideals, ethics, and expectations to a Chinese workplace. Foxconn workers are paid WELL above the national average. Without Apple, hundreds of thousands of jobs in China would not even exist. These people would then have to go back to making the equivalent of 17 cents a day. If they could even FIND work at all. How is that better for them exactly?

Don't get me wrong, the conditions in China are deplorable. But it's not Apple's fault. They can't change Chinese laws, enact labor unions, or dictate to Foxconn what their employees pay and what benefits they get.

I'm lucky that I live in a country where I can leave a lousy job and have a good chance at finding another one that is acceptable, they aren't that lucky.

Yes, yes we are. But again, you're holding Apple responsible for a condition that you just admitted is due to the COUNTRY they live in. We have opportunities they do not.

I am not anti-business, I'm pro ethical business.

Good. Now be pro-common sense as well.

RE: There's nothing Apple can do.
By Rukkian on 1/27/2012 2:25:32 PM , Rating: 2
While I don't agree with the practices, I feel it really is the job of the Chinese government to fix it, not ours. Where I have a problem here is with Apple coming and promoting their "higher standards" and lying about the conditions to get better sales. Either fix the problems, or defer to the manufacturer, but blatently lying about it is wrong!

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

Latest Headlines
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
The Samsung Galaxy S7
September 14, 2016, 6:00 AM
Apple Watch 2 – Coming September 7th
September 3, 2016, 6:30 AM
Apple says “See you on the 7th.”
September 1, 2016, 6:30 AM

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

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