China’s Foxconn is still Apple’s shameBy Graham Land May 31, 2012 10:08PM UTC
Okay, so the Mike Daisy one-man show on Apple’s use of sweatshop labor in China was ‘liberal’ with facts. Daisy himself contends he never actually lied – despite using made-up conversations, etc. – and that the show is a piece of fictionalized theater rather than journalism anyway. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak liked the show, after all.
Now a detailed report on working conditions at Foxconn in Shenzhen, where trendy up-market Apple products are made, has revealed that appalling situations for workers continue.
Resident iPhone laborers at Foxconn Shenzhen can live 30 in one 3-bedroom campus apartment with up to 8 people sleeping in one room. Their personal lives are forced to be ‘low carbon’ by the prohibition of electric kettles and laptops. Not that any of them can afford a MacBook Air, I imagine.
From the Guardian:
The report, by the Hong Kong workers’ rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom), says workers at the world’s 10th largest employer have been told to clean toilets, sweep lawns and write “confession letters”, which are then pinned up on noticeboards or read out to colleagues.
Counselling helplines also inform on callers to their supervisors.
To put things into perspective, the Taiwanese multinational Foxconn is the largest manufacturer of electronics and Greater China’s largest exporter. Foxconn in Shenzhen employs around 500,000 workers.
After exposés of Foxconn’s labor conditions this year, Apple hired the Fair Labor Association to conduct an independent audit. Despite promises made after the FLA Audit, Sacom found that Foxconn’s Shenzhen line managers work as much as 5 hours unpaid overtime per day, with workers’ overtime hours normally at 80 per month. Foxconn’s official overtime limit is 60 hours and Chinese labor law sets the limit at 36 hours per month.
Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin is quoted in a report by Reuters:
I haven’t seen any real evidence of any significant changes. At the moment they’re just tinkering around the edges and doing PR stunts … I don’t think there’s a short term fix to the situation at Foxconn. It’s too big, it’s too complicated. If they can move towards a more democratic system where the workers have a voice in their pay and conditions … you’ll find a much more content workforce.
Though Apple grabs all the headlines, Nokia, Dell, Amazon and Hewlett Packard also contract Foxconn to make their products.
Other ethical points to consider concerning Apple products and high tech electronic products in general are their contribution to climate change, the fueling of bloody conflicts in the Congo and excessive rates of consumption, and Apple’s reliance on coal power.