Earlier in the year one of Apple’s main manufacturers, Foxconn were all over the news for violating the rights of their workers. There were stories of inhumane working hours, unsafe living and working conditions, poor pay and the suicide nets that were installed to stop miserable employees from jumping out of higher storey windows were a cynical approach from the company to stop staff taking their own lives.
Bowing to international pressure, Apple instigated an FLA investigation. Unsurprisingly, the investigation discovered numerous problems within the company but they seemed to be trying to improve conditions for their workers and trying to implement the recommended changes.
However, reporters from the French investigative television program Envoyé Spécial recently infiltrated the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory – the place where the iPhone 5 is being manufactured and they discovered that conditions in the factory were still deplorable.
Undercover reporters found that many of the dormitories at the new factory were occupied by workers despite the fact that construction had not yet been completed on them. This meant that many people were staying in accommodation which had no electricity, running water or elevators. With a hidden camera, reporters captured a Foxconn manager warning employees not to plug their devices into the dorms that did have electricity because 8 workers had apparently been killed in an electrical fire that started because the circuits had been overloaded!
Reporters also spoke with low-paid student employees who were of a legal age to work at the Foxconn factory but said that they did not want the placements. They claimed that corrupt school administrators forced them into taking the positions, threatening that they would lose their diplomas if they did not take the jobs.
Foxconn’s regular workers claimed that despite receiving the payrise recommended by the FLA, much of it was still being sucked up by the company for things like housing, insurance, food and charges for things like psychological evaluations.
Labor groups in the area told reporters that many workers in the area were still working as many as 150 hours overtime each month and often working for 90 days straight in order to keep up with the huge demand for the iPhone 5.
After Endgadget published the story, Apple released this statement:
Apple is committed to the highest standards of social responsibility across our worldwide supply chain. We insist that all of our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever our products are made.
Foxconn also responded to Envoyé Spécial’s claims, they said:
Foxconn takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our 1.4 million employees in China a safe and satisfactory working environment. We are mandated by our own strict policies, Chinese government law, and our commitments to our customers to ensure that the highest level of health and safety standards are applied to our operations in all locations throughout China.
As China’s largest private-sector employer, we provide compensation and benefits that are much higher than the government-mandated wages and that are competitive with all of our industry peers in every location where we operate.
We are committed to the process of continuous improvement to our workplace policies and practices and we uphold that through regular reviews of our operations by our internal teams, customers, and government regulators and if any areas for improvement are noted, they are immediately addressed. One example of our commitment to this process is the Action Plan that we are currently implementing in areas throughout our China operations following the review earlier this year of some of our operations by the US-based NGO, the Fair Labor Association (FLA). A follow-up review by the FLA showed that we are successfully implementing that Action Plan and we are ahead of the schedule for completion of elements of that program.
Foxconn is not perfect, but we are making progress everyday and we continue to lead our industry in meeting the needs of the new generation of workers in China. That progress is reflected in our success in recruiting and retaining workers and in the reports of the many members of the international media who have visited our operations and who have freely and independently spoken with employees. Our goal is to continue to meet our responsibilities to our customers, to our employees, and to the communities where we operate.