Open Mic Section

KC JOURNAL NO 30 JULY 2012

In this article China Labor Watch*, discusses the working conditions at Apple and what you can do to support workers at Apple.

Thoughts on apple’s independent audits

I’d like to share a couple thoughts I have about Apple’s recent decision to have FLA conduct independent audits in its Foxconn supplier factories. First, I believe that without public pressure Apple would never cooperate with a third party auditor; their change in policy reflects the ongoing successes of the broader labour movement in society.

Second, and this is really important, since FLA was founded 12 years ago, of the dozens of companies that have joined FLA and invited FLA to perform factory audits, not a single one uses supplier factories with conditions better than Foxconn. From ten years of investigations at China Labor Watch, I can guarantee you; none of the corporate members of FLA have supplier factories with better overall working conditions than Foxconn.

In the FLA member factories that we have recently investigated, workers consistently work more than 60 hours a week. While these workers may work longer hours than their counterparts at Foxconn, their wages are still lower.

In this article China Labor Watch*, discusses the working conditions at Apple and what you can do to support workers at Apple Thoughts on Apple’s Independent Audits Apple and Foxconn have recently pledged to reduce workers’ work time to 49 hours a week. Of the hundreds of Chinese factories we have investigated over the last twelve years, not one FLA member’s supplier factory has honored such a standard. In fact, workers at these factories regularly work over 80 hours overtime each month. They don’t receive a living wage and commonly suffer workplace injuries, and some have even worked themselves to death.

Public relations

Third, I absolutely do not oppose cooperation between NGOs and multinational corporations—on the contrary, I believe China’s labor problems can only be resolved through the involvement of all relevant parties. However, I believe FLA’s report on Foxconn is above all a public relations stunt to guard Apple from public criticism. FLA’s public relations strategies are quite refined; they raised several labor issues at Foxconn, but did not pay due attention to the most fundamental problems, like labor intensity, student labor, and safety conditions. At the same time, they placed the burden of responsibility on the supplier and shifted responsibility away from Apple and onto other brands. Apple is the wealthiest and most powerful company in the world. It has the means to single-handedly improve factory conditions. The solution is simple, too—just raise order prices. Apple must lead the pack; only after they change their procurement policies, will other companies be willing to change. By enlisting the PR help of FLA, Apple has shirked its responsibility and saved tons of money—money that they would have otherwise had to spend to improve factory conditions directly.

Of course, improving Chinese labor conditions is not the sole responsibility of Apple and Foxconn. Other brands must participate in reform, and relevant government policies in China and the US must be implemented. Without the earnest efforts of all relevant parties, the path to improving working conditions in China will continue to be slow and painful.

Pressure from consumers and civil society organisations SACOM, Good Electronics, MakeItFair, and other organisations have published reports on Apple and Foxconn and apply pressure on these two corporations in various ways. The changes in Foxconn’s dorm conditions and the recent guarantees from Foxconn and Apple to increase salaries and decrease overtime would never happen without the efforts of these organisations.

What Can We Do?

Apple only reforms when their consumers begin to speak out. Therefore, one of the best ways to promote change is to write a letter to Apple, call Apple, or voice your concerns to an Apple employee. You can also write to your congressmen to express your concern and your desire for a change in government policy. You can also organise seminars on Apple suppliers, just like the seminar today. As long as there is continued pressure on Apple and Foxconn, the companies will keep implementing changes in their labor practice.

 


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