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FLA president said other factories in China are much worse, and that Apple's Foxconn plants are "first-class"

After The New York Times released a report on the poor treatment of Apple's suppliers' workers, weeks of Apple bashing ensued. But a new study from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) takes the opposite stance, saying that workers at factories like Foxconn are not being pushed to their limits -- they're just bored.

Auret van Heerden, president of the Fair Labor Association, is currently investigating the conditions of Apple's suppliers' factories in China after Apple recently volunteered for FLA inspection. Van Heerden recently visited one of Apple's main suppliers, Foxconn Technology Group, and found that the working conditions there were better than many other factories in China such as garment factories.

"The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm," said van Heerden. "I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory. So the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory. It's more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps."

Van Heerden explained that many of the workers come from distant rural areas away from their families, and are thrown into an industrial setting that they're not used to with people that they don't know. With this kind of boredom, alienation and homesickness, the young workers require emotional support, and the factories were not aware that this was the case. Van Heerden said that this emotional distress is what led to the suicides at Foxconn, not employees being overworked.

Van Heerden also sided with Apple in the respect that the company decided to join the FLA, which subjects the company to intense monitoring.

"Apple didn't need to join the FLA," said van Heerden. "The FLA system is very tough. It involves unannounced visits, complete access, public reporting. If Apple wanted to take the easy way out, there were a whole host of options available to them. The fact that they joined the FLA shows they were really serious about raising their game."

Last month, The New York Times published a report detailing the harsh conditions that Apple's suppliers' workers must endure. The article listed problems like long hours, exhaustion, lengthy overtime, unsafe working environments (a collection of aluminum dust from polishing iPad cases led to two explosions in two separate Foxconn plants due to poor ventilation), underage employment and crowded living conditions as some of the violations to Apple's supplier code of conduct. Despite violations to this code, which have been brought to Apple's attention repeatedly on an annual basis since 2007, The New York Times wondered why Apple wasn't doing anything to improve it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook fired back about the claims that Apple doesn't care about its supplier's employees overseas. He sent an email to Apple employees stating that the company cares about each and every worker, and that he was outraged by the accusations which stated otherwise.

"As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values," said Cook. "Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are."

About 30 FLA employees will be spending the next three weeks at Chinese Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu to interview 35,000 workers. Each Apple Foxconn worker will be given iPads to complete a survey, which asks them the following series of questions: how were they hired, were they paid a fee, what are the conditions of their dorms/food, were their complaints acted upon, what is their emotional well being, and were they offered/did they sign any contracts and did they understand them.

After collecting this information, the FLA will create a full report of their findings. The report will be available in early March 2012.

Foxconn will not be the only supplier investigated by the FLA. Asian suppliers like Quanta Computer Inc., Wintek Corp. and Pegatron Corp. will be placed under the microscope as well at a later date.

Sources: Reuters, CNET

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RE: Right...
By Tony Swash on 2/16/2012 2:03:29 PM , Rating: -1
Let's face it - iPhobics will never believe anything good about Apple and will always believe, and exaggerate, anything bad about Apple. There is so little bad news about Apple these days that there is little else they can do. Mix in to that the fact that Apple is a hot news topic and that generally journalism has more fun and get's more milage from bad news stories and you can see what a heady mix that is.

My reading of Tim Cook's recent address to the BigInvestor tech conference this last week where he went into a great deal of (frankly tedious) detail about the issue of labour conditions in Apple's supply chain is that Apple are going all out not just to head off critics but to turn this issue around into another reason to buy Apple. I think Apple will use it's enormous purchasing power to crowbar improvements in the conditions in their supply chain which their competitors just won't be able to afford and then tout their above average supply chain as another reason to buy Apple's goods. Brilliant.

On the ridiculous suicide meme I have posted the stats below before in a vain attempt to convince the iPhobics to give up one of their precious delusions and will repost it again here but I don't have much hope of rationality taking hold.

Accurate, detailed and up to date suicide statistics for China are hard to come by.

The best external and probably the most reliable source of suicide statistics for China are those from the World Health Organisation. The WHO's latest stats for China seem to be for May 2003 and they give a rate per 100,000 of 13 for men and 14.8 for women (this excludes Hong Kong which has a significantly higher rate). That is a lower rate for men than in the USA but a higher rate than for women.

The WHO has some breakdown by age group but the data is a little old and is from 1999. That data gives the following rates per 100,000

Age 24-34: 15.1

Age 35-44: 13.2

Age 45-54: 18.2

My reading of the age stats is that people of a working age have a very slightly higher rate of suicide than those younger (who have less less suicide) or older (who have very much higher rates).

You should note that those WHO figures are roughly twice as high as the figures quoted in Wikipedia and which are used for the comparative calculations below and therefore would make the Foxxconn figures even less remarkable (other than being lower than average)

Wikipedia gives the average annual rate of suicide per 100,000 people in China per year as 6.6. The rate is different for men and women and this is the adjusted average for both genders. Like all 'averages' the figure is derived from a larger set of differing numbers over time, some periods will see more suicides and some periods fewer. Over time suicides average to 6.6 per 100,000 people per year.

Foxconn is listed as having approximately 1 million employees (again see Wikipedia)

This means that one would expect 66 Foxconn employees to commit suicide every year if the rate at Foxconn was just the same as the average rate for China as a whole.

The Guardian newspaper reports that In Shenzhen and Chengdu a joint Foxconn workforce of 500,000 works on Apple products.

This would mean that if the suicide rate amongst Foxconn employees working on Apple products was the same as the the average rate for China then one would expect 33 suicides per year.

The 'spate' of Foxconn employee suicides that prompted such lurid headlines a while back consisted of 7 employee suicides in a six month period out of a workforce of 300,000. The normal rate of suicides per 300,000 people in China in any six month period would expected to be 19.8. Thus the suicide rate at Foxconn was below the national average.

So based on the stats I could find the Foxconn rate (or rather the seven suicides in six months that led to lurid headlines containing the magical news story word "Apple) is nothing special and is actually on the low side. If anybody knows of better, more compete or more comprehensive sources of data on suicide in China please do post the relevant links.

RE: Right...
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/16/2012 2:39:24 PM , Rating: 2
Let's face it - iPhobics will never believe anything good about Apple and will always believe, and exaggerate, anything bad about Apple.
Wow, just wow. You are something else. A pathetic loser. That's what.

RE: Right...
By messele on 2/16/12, Rating: -1
RE: Right...
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/16/2012 3:53:44 PM , Rating: 2
I don't ever recall claiming anything as fact, but everything he posts, claims as facts even when proven it's not. So.....try again?

RE: Right...
By Tony Swash on 2/16/2012 6:32:38 PM , Rating: 1
At the end of my comment I said:

If anybody knows of better, more compete or more comprehensive sources of data on suicide in China please do post the relevant links.

Feel free to post any more data or sources of data that will let us understand better the phenomena of suicide in China and how it relates to working for a company that supplies Apple. I like facts :)

When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?
John Maynard Keynes

RE: Right...
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/17/2012 8:03:48 AM , Rating: 2
I like facts :)
Except when they don't suit your agenda, then you throw out some overly biased opinions of other people on some overly biased website or some random quotes which have nothing to do with the conversation at hand.

RE: Right...
By DougF on 2/20/2012 11:00:51 AM , Rating: 2
And yet, when you are asked to provide a countering set of facts, do some of your own research, or add to the conversation/debate with something other than personal opinion, you fail to do so.

RE: Right...
By retrospooty on 2/16/2012 3:24:42 PM , Rating: 3
"Let's face it - i will never believe anything bad about Apple and will always believe, and exaggerate, anything good about Apple"

There, I fixed that for you so it now reflects reality. Of course, you will never believe it. ;)

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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