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Workers welfare comes into question

Several weeks ago, reports were rampant about Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, employees being severely underpaid but having to work just as hard as workers in any other parts of the world. In fact, reports said that some of Foxconn's employees that were part of manufacturing Apple products were being paid a $50 per month.

Shortly after the reports began circulating, Foxconn said that its factory in Longhua, China, does not put its workers at harm and does not sacrifice living standards for cheap labor. The company further said that most of its employees are given housing. There was no response from Apple for a few days but the company did issue a statement that it would investigate the matter further.

According to Apple, the company is extremely strict about its manufacturing partners and its code of conduct. Apple said that it will be interviewing workers that work at Foxconn's factories and said that it will not tolerate non-compliance to industry standards. Apple's own policy indicates:

Suppliers must pay wages, benefits, and overtime to workers in accordance with applicable laws, including those related to minimum wages, overtime, hours, and legally mandated benefits. Suppliers may not discriminate based on race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, or marital status. The basis on which workers are being paid must be clearly conveyed to them in a timely manner.

This is not uncommon for Chinese manufacturing facilities.  At most of these factories, workers are required to live "on-campus" and share a dorm with several other employees of the same gender.  Room and board are taken out of the employee's salary and as such, the workers are typically left with $50 to $100 per month.  Whether or not this is substandard to foreign eyes, it is the standard model in China -- every facility operates this way whether the plant manufactures iPods, motherboards, cars or clothes.

Neither Apple nor Foxconn have issued any further statements. The Longhua factory produces products for many manufacturers including Apple, and makes things such as the iPod.

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RE: You guys socialist or what?
By lemonadesoda on 6/22/2006 6:09:53 PM , Rating: 2
...unfortunately that's a rather naiive view. The next thing along that line of thought is that child labour is OK as long as the kids weren't forced to do it. And having 15 year old prostitutes is OK as long as they do it of their own choice. And that its ok to let people starve... its their own fault for not working hard enough... since the influx of capital and profits will always alleviate any economic situation situation. And an alternative to letting your family starve is to go to another city and work and sleep in the factory 24hrs a day AND NOT GET PAID the amount you are contractually and legally obliged to receive... sand this is OK since if you don't like the conditions, you can always leave.

I suggest you switch your college major to economics or law. You could use the help.

RE: You guys socialist or what?
By jtesoro on 6/22/2006 11:07:56 PM , Rating: 2
I think its a matter of where we draw the line, and it will be different for each individual (or corporation). I think the child prostitutes thing is easy.

Child labor I actually thought was easy until I started to define in my mind what it was. Having a kid mow the neighbor's lawn for a few bucks is OK. How about helping to gather crops for the neighboring farm for a week? What if a group of kids decide "hey, why don't we go over to Mr. Smith's farm down the road and earn a few bucks"? What if they ask one of their Dads to front for them because he can better convice Mr. Smith? Maybe Dad starts becoming systematic and starts planning the summer schedule for this "group of kids" so they can "earn a few bucks". For kicks, they later call themselves FarmHelp Company, and Dad gets a portion of the earnings so he can "buy himself some coffee"...

At what point does it become child labor? Each of us may define it differently. The law may have its own definition. But Chinese law is different from US law, and so on.

I don't want to say Apple is right or wrong because I think there's too little information. On one hand maybe it's OK because they might be doing regular (or even random) audits and its just that the Chinese company is able to hide things somehow. On the other hand, Apple may have known but chose to do nothing until things leaked out. Its not even clear what the violation is. The article uses the word "mistreatment", but it doesn't say anything else other than lower wages compared to another factory. I don't think that's mistreatment. I don't think that's against the law either.

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