The whole world gasped out loud when reports emerged about Foxconn, the Chinese factory responsible for making many of Apple’s most popular products, and their dismal human rights record.
I wrote an article about the ‘suicide nets’ that had been installed outside of factory windows, in what can only be seen as a cynical attempt to stop depressed workers taking their own lives. No one could quite believe what we were hearing about the terrible conditions that these workers had to endure.
Excessively long working hours without adequate breaks, cramped living conditions, poor pay and lack of holidays, were amongst the subjects being discussed by every major news network around the globe.
In an attempt to quell some of the bad publicity they were receiving, Apple invited the FLA (Fair Labor Association) to inspect all of the factories in their production chain, to a level that was ‘unprecedented’ in the industry.
Foxconn are one of the world’s largest custom manufacturers of electronics and employ more than 1.2 million people in 18 different countries, although the majority of their employees and factories are in China. As well as making Apple’s most popular products like the iPhone and iPads, Foxconn also manufacture products for Sony, Microsoft, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
The inspections began in January, and FLA Chief Executive Officer Auret Van Heerden said that whilst they had discovered numerous issues during their inspection, they were also seeing ‘dramatic’ improvements.
Reports have now emerged that Foxconn are looking to hire a safety and security officer, a lifestyle services manager, and two fire chiefs. They are also said to have increased the base rate for junior workers by as much as 25% and now claim to pay wages much higher than government mandates.
A Bloomberg article about the creation of these new posts within the company said:
“The lifestyle manager will be responsible for conditions at the company’s dormitories, canteens and health departments, according to the advertisement. The safety and security post requires a college degree in criminal investigation or legal- related disciplines, while the fire chiefs must have at least four years of related experience.”
Louis Woo, chairman of Foxconn’s retail division was quoted in the Bloomberg article about the new appointments, saying; “Yes we are hiring these positions,” but declined to make any further comment on the new posts and what they mean for the company.
Some will argue that it is too little too late, and I doubt the 17 Foxconn workers who committed suicide recently will find much consolation in the fact that they are now hiring a lifestyle officer, nor will the new safety officers be able to alleviate the pain and anguish suffered by those who were hurt in recent fires or chemical leaks at the factories.
It is not like we can just forget their past wrongs against these people, however it is a firm step in the right direction if these new appointments will stop more people from being hurt and improve their living and working conditions.
It is important though, that an entirely different view is adopted by the company, from the very top of the hierarchy, to treat their employees with more respect and have a greater consideration for their human rights.