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Former Apple Executives Address Working Conditions in Suppliers' Factories

The New York Times today published a lengthy report discussing working conditions at the facilities of Apple's suppliers in China, part of a growing focus on how Apple's popular products are made. While the company is making strides in holding its suppliers accountable to company standards, the report cites former Apple executives who note that the company continues to struggle balancing its desire for better working conditions and workers' rights with its business priorities.
Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products. [...]

“We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,” said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. “Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.”
Apple is far from the only company experiencing such tensions, but has been receiving the most publicity due to the popularity of its products and its booming financial results.


Apple details its efforts on monitoring supplier responsibility in an annual report, outlining hundreds of audits it conducts to check for compliance and the steps it has taken to remedy issues discovered as part of the process. But sources note that while Apple routinely threatens companies with a loss of business if issues are not addressed, the company in practice has tolerate continued issues because it frequently has few alternatives in its supply chain.
“If you see the same pattern of problems, year after year, that means the company’s ignoring the issue rather than solving it,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “Noncompliance is tolerated, as long as the suppliers promise to try harder next time. If we meant business, core violations would disappear.”
The highest-profile issues at Apple suppliers have involved a number of suicides at Foxconn's facilities and separate explosions at Foxconn and Pegatron facilities last year that together resulted in four deaths and 77 injuries.

Apple has over 150 suppliers contributing to its products, many of them located in China and other Asian countries where workers are plentiful and wages low in comparison to other regions of the world. Last week, The New York Times detailed how the U.S. has been unable to compete with China for production of the iPhone and other devices as factories in Asia have proven to be considerably more flexible in their ability to scale production up and down and have become the location for nearly the entire supply chain.

But while the economics and logistics of manufacturing in China bring Apple speed, scale, and costs that are unmatchable in the United States, the company finds itself struggling to deal with the human factor that has become increasingly visible alongside Apple's rise to prominence.

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33 months ago

Anyway one should always take declarations from *former* execs with a grain of salt

I despise when people say such ridiculous things. Sometimes you can only speak freely and openly once you have left, especially after your NDA expires.

Now, on to something that won't be popular here. There will be plenty of posts that say this is a worldwide problem, not just an Apple problem-- and they'd be right. However, news like this sheds light on corporate responsibility being more of a marketing term than a way of doing business. As a company currently sitting with $97.6 BILLION dollars in CASH ON HAND, they should dramatically improve the working conditions and lives of people who make their products, not have an attitude of "well everyone else does it." While their position is popular on this forum, it's not right. Life is not all about money, it's about the health and well being of yourself, your family, and hopefully (if even to a lesser extent), your fellow man. I would pay more money for an iPod or Mac if they had decent wages and living conditions that didn't encourage worker suicides. Spare me the "I don't have more money to shell out." If you are really that bad off, then quit wasting your money on consumer electronics that you can't afford.
Rating: 38 Votes
33 months ago

Maybe a little part of that cash pile could help.
Anyway one should always take declarations from *former* execs with a grain of salt


Agreed. I'm not sure I put a ton of faith in this story. Foxconn would change tomorrow if Apple told them to? Nope. Not buying it. Apple isn't even close to the only company who uses Foxconn and there would be many more companies who would have say in working conditions vs efficiency.
Rating: 18 Votes
33 months ago
This sounds like the old movie cliche', "I'm sorry I had to do this" while they continue to kick/punch/abuse someone to get what they want.

The sad truth is that we want cheaper products so they use countries with lower wages and worse working/living environments. If we'd all accept a 300% jump in the cost of electronics we could manufacturer everything locally.
Rating: 18 Votes
33 months ago

...the company finds itself struggling to deal with the human factor that has become increasingly visible alongside Apple's rise to prominence.


Struggling or reluctant?
Rating: 15 Votes
33 months ago
Looks like the Times is aiming for a Pulitzer. No coincidence that they released the story after Apple announced earnings.

While this is a huge problem, it is not an Apple problem; it's a worldwide one. The media likes to attach Apple's name to these stories because Apple stories = eyeballs.
Rating: 14 Votes
33 months ago
I'm sure one day someone will figure out how to build tiny little manufacturing robots that can assemble an iPhone with no human input so you don't have to manufacture in China.

In the meantime if Apple made a little less profit then these poor people working in these factories could have better working conditions and better pay. Apples' $100Bn cash pile is just obscene when you read stories like this.
Rating: 14 Votes
33 months ago

Looks like the Times is aiming for a Pulitzer. No coincidence that they released the story after Apple announced earnings.

While this is a huge problem, it is not an Apple problem; it's a worldwide one. The media likes to attach Apple's name to these stories because Apple stories = eyeballs.


Differences is Apple has both the money and power to do something about it and they are choosing not to. Instead they demand more profit to paid the bottom line.
Rating: 13 Votes
33 months ago
I think it would be great if Apple took the lead and bravely built a new, über-efficient manufacturing complex in the US. Glass, plastic, screws, silicon and even "liquid metal" makers on one large chunk of land here, with the ends of the buildings funneling parts to an assembly plant. The other end of assembly could be all train/truck bays, ready to head off to Apple Stores.

They say they can't find the people to do those jobs, but I disagree. If they build it, workers will come. Not for $17 a day or whatever, but a reasonable wage. Apple can afford it, but isn't interested or serious about it yet. They even said American unemployment isn't their problem. Kinda takes the jam out of my doughnut.
Rating: 13 Votes
33 months ago

I read the article.

Curiously, it doesn't mention the names of the "former Apple executives". I would just propose that _any_ former Apple executive will feel very unhappy right now because they missed out on the huge success of Apple on the stock market. Rubinstein would be ten times richer than he is, had he staid at Apple. That might have something to do with this.

But really, what do "former Apple executives" know about Apple's dealings with companies in China?


ell, openly. There is an "appeal to authority" here because it is claimed that "former Apple executives" are talking. Which is obviously garbage if the "former Apple executives" don't give their names. I think one "former Apple executive" is now in jail because he sold plans of Apple products to companies in China; is that the source? (Well, what do these guys call "executives"? Some middle manager? )


So, you think that all of the OTHER reported sources of terrible employee conditions at Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturing facilities used by Apple have also been falsified? Jezz, you fanboys....:rolleyes:

Tony

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Most companies are not going nearly as far as Apple is to protect workers.


So have no proof of this statement, one way or the other.

Tony
Rating: 10 Votes
33 months ago
"The company finds itself struggling to deal with the human factor that has become increasingly visible..."

What a horrible euphemism. The "human factor." Please. Call it what it is: extremes of worker abuse and cruelty leading to absolutely preventable explosions, and a rash of suicides.

Anybody who read that entire article will think of Dickens's Industrial Revolution England, not of Steve Jobs's glib idealism and 21st-century tech-enabled fairytales.

If Apple can completely transform five major industries and sit on $80+ billion in CASH while having an unprecedentedly blockbuster quarter, they sure as hell can transform the ethics of their supply chain. Hell, they can transform the US economy by doing the right thing, and starting to build factories again in the U.S.

And/or use their leverage to REALLY make a difference in China, since clearly Foxconn and the other suppliers there have the government in their pocket.

And I don't want to hear about how ALL tech companies "have to do this." That is just BS. Apple reserves for itself every exception it chooses to. If Foxconn or any other supplier were screwing up a single tiny part on a single tiny device, Apple would be all over them to fix it... yesterday. If they wanted to do this, REALLY do this right, they would be doing it... rather than hiring some PR people and conflict-of-interested outside firms to try to make the scrutiny go away.

Apple is responsible, through incredibly aggressive price controls and obsession with secrecy, for forcing their suppliers to force their workers to produce ever more and ever more quickly, safety and health and basic human consideration be damned.

Al Gore: where are you when we need you? As an Apple director, you are fiduciarily - and morally - responsible.
Rating: 9 Votes

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