Efforts by Apple and Foxconn to Improve Electronics Industry Labor Conditions Starting to Take Hold

apple logoIn the latest installment of its "iEconomy" series, The New York Times takes a look at the advances made by Apple and Foxconn to improve working conditions at the Chinese factories churning out Apple products since a major push began earlier this year. The report details many changes such as wage increases and shorter working hour limits that have previously been disclosed, but also takes a peek behind the scenes to offer a glimpse of how executives at both companies have reacted to the situation.

The report shares details on a meeting between Apple and Foxconn executives and representatives of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which began independent monitoring of working conditions earlier this year. At the meeting, FLA president Auret van Heerden outlined a number of shortcomings found in Foxconn's facilities.

“The world is watching!” [Foxconn chairman Terry] Gou yelled, according to multiple people. “We are going to fix this, right here!”

But the inspector was not done.

He turned to the only Apple executive in the room, the senior vice president for operations, Jeff Williams. Apple needed to change as well, the inspector said. Apple, to its credit, had been working for years to improve conditions in overseas factories, but the company was treating such problems too much like engineering puzzles, the inspector said.

“Long-term solutions require a messier, more human approach,” that inspector, Auret van Heerden of the Fair Labor Association, told Mr. Williams. Instead of concentrating on writing more policies, Apple needed to listen better to workers’ complaints and advocacy groups’ recommendations.

Williams was reportedly surprised by some of the suggestions, as Apple had long prided itself on its thorough auditing processes. But upon returning to California, Williams and Apple moved quickly to address the issues, reaching out to advocacy groups and instituting additional changes.

Among them, say people with firsthand knowledge, was the hiring of roughly 30 professionals into Apple’s social responsibility unit in the last year, which tripled the size of that division and brought high-profile corporate activists into the company. Two widely respected former Apple executives — Jacky Haynes and Bob Bainbridge — were recruited back to help lead the unit, reporting ultimately to Mr. Williams and the chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.

“Everyone knows Bob and Jacky,” said a former Apple executive. “It sends a message that Jeff and Tim expect everyone to get on board.”

Despite the changes that do appear to be making an impact on working conditions, some advocates indicate that Apple could be doing even more. In particular, the company's penchant for secrecy is reportedly hindering industry-wide sharing of knowledge to help root out noncompliant suppliers and prevent workplace incidents such as dust explosions that have killed and injured workers at Apple-affiliated factories.


The report also notes how the changes being instituted by Apple and Foxconn have been leading to changes throughout the industry, pointing to PC giant Hewlett Packard and contract manufacturer Quanta as examples of those companies making changes in line with those employed in Apple's supply chain.

Top Rated Comments

TSE Avatar
130 months ago
Samsung put the price of its components up by 20% (to Apple only?) and Apple responds by ditching the internal optical drive on the iMac (expensive to replace if it craps out under warranty) and glues the screen to the computer.

Now cheap ass labour looks as though it may be coming to end? So what next Tim? Thinner external optical drives?

What the hell are you rambling on about?
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Earendil Avatar
130 months ago
Foxconn worker commits suicide.
Twice.

"After 40 days working in Foxconn's Shenzhen factory, a 18-year-old male twice jumped off the same hotel building to commit suicide, according to a local newspaper's report.

The man, only identified as Li, tried to kill himself by leaping out of the stairwell window between the third and fourth floor in a hotel in Shenzhen around 5.30pm on Dec. 10, 2012. The local police said that he was likely caught by the advertising board and survived the first fall, but then he went to a higher level in the same building to jump again."

http://www.zdnet.com/cn/foxconn-worker-commits-suicide-factory-abuse-suspected-7000009152/

I guess he found out about the accelerated iPad release schedule.

Last I read, the suicide rate among FoxConn workers was lower than China, and lower than the world. People that work for General Electric commit suicide too. Correlation does not mean causation.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ctdonath Avatar
130 months ago
This, from the expired TJIC.com, always seems fitting for the thread's recurring topic and the invariable wallowing outrage it elicits:

---

Say that we had first contact with some super (economically) advanced aliens.

…and pretty soon they set up factories here.

…and I was offered a job in one of these factories, doing software engineering.

The pay is $400k/year.

The work week is 20 hours long.

The work environment is far better than I’m used to – great internal decoration, well tended plants, a zen-like water garden near my desk, massages every other day.

…and then left-wing alien “sentient being rights activists” started protesting, because I was being forced to work for less than a quarter of the prevailing wage in Alpha Centauri, and my work hours were twice as long as the legal norms in Alpha Centauri, and I didn’t have every mandatory benefits like “other other year off”, and “free AI musical composition mentoring”.

…and then left-wing alien “sentient being rights activists” wanted to make it illegal for my employer and I to contract with each other at mutually beneficial terms.

…then I would be rip **** that some elitist who had never visited me, or knew of my actual alternatives on the ground presumed to decide that I shouldn’t have this opportunity.

Which brings me to my core point: Chinese factory conditions may not be the exact cup of tea for a San Francisco graphic designer or a Connecticut non-profit ecologist grant writer … but they’re, by definition, better than all the other alternatives available to the Chinese workers (or the factories would find it impossible to staff up).

Butt out, clueless activists.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mike84 Avatar
130 months ago
Samsung put the price of its components up by 20% (to Apple only?) and Apple responds by ditching the internal optical drive on the iMac (expensive to replace if it craps out under warranty) and glues the screen to the computer.

Now cheap ass labour looks as though it may be coming to end? So what next Tim? Thinner external optical drives?

What the heck are you talking about? Samsung did not raise prices on Apple by 20%. That report was quickly changed to say that it was not the case.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wizard Avatar
130 months ago
The average fanboy doesn't care about human slavery...since it happens to them, over there !

The problem is on a world wide basis the factories in China aren't that bad. What is bad is the reporting that exploits the tragedies there for whatever evil intent the reporter has. It is especially perplexing considering all of the suicides and murders that happen in the US that nobody cares about. The reality is your only alternative for dealing with the mentally ill is a padded room with a good lock or a hangmans noose. Much of what we see people responding too is a rather sad indication as to how gullible many Anericans are.

----------

Foxconn worker commits suicide.
Twice.

"After 40 days working in Foxconn's Shenzhen factory, a 18-year-old male twice jumped off the same hotel building to commit suicide, according to a local newspaper's report.

The man, only identified as Li, tried to kill himself by leaping out of the stairwell window between the third and fourth floor in a hotel in Shenzhen around 5.30pm on Dec. 10, 2012. The local police said that he was likely caught by the advertising board and survived the first fall, but then he went to a higher level in the same building to jump again."

http://www.zdnet.com/cn/foxconn-worker-commits-suicide-factory-abuse-suspected-7000009152/

I guess he found out about the accelerated iPad release schedule.

Nope it is mental illness about which there is little you can do.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
130 months ago
What guessing?

"He called me the night before and said that he did not want to work for Foxconn anymore."

You should have read the article.
Not that it would have changed your attitude.
You're too morally invested in your iStuff.
Carry on. It's obviously a conspiracy.

"He did not want to work for Foxconn anymore". Many people don't want to work where they are. Some quit their jobs. Others continue even when they don't like it. No person in reasonable mental health would kill themselves for that reason. "I don't want to work for Foxconn anymore" isn't any reasonable explanation for a suicide. So you _were_ guessing.

And it's obviously not a conspiracy. It is posters like you, who either don't know anything about statistics or are willfully ignorant, who post this kind of nonsense, with no conspiracy involved.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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