I’ve just been reading the furor about the Foxconn factories in China, whose workers supply a number of popular Apple products. Honestly I thought I was reading a joke article, on some sort of mock-news website when I read that they had installed ‘suicide nets’ in places where numerous overworked and underpaid employees had taken their own lives. After a little further research, I was dismayed to realize I was actually reading the truth, and not someone’s attempt at black-humor.
Because of the media frenzy surrounding these unfortunate workers who were so depressed they took their own lives, and also because of a number of explosions and accidents causing multiple employee deaths through exposure to lethal chemicals, Apple have asked the FLA (Fair Labor Association) to audit these suppliers.
Don’t get me wrong, preventing suicide whenever possible can only be a good thing, but suicide nets, is that really the way to go? This is the next level of cold-heartedness, and supremely surreal, if you ask me. Rather than actually assessing the reasons these workers have been throwing themselves out of windows like lemmings off a cliff, and then trying to do something about it– the company instead decided to install these eerie nets so the desperate to escape, just bounce straight back up!
Media reports suggests that people who wish to work in these factories must sign ‘overtime’ clauses, which mean they work massively longer hours than the guidelines for working hours stated in the Chinese law.
Reports also state that employees are forced to work 24 hours with only short breaks to eat and are often stood on their feet the entire time – and to think I used to call my old boss a slave-driver, he actually seems like an angel compared to these guys!! If we are to believe the allegations flying around the internet at the moment, then these poor people have been working in what can only described as a living hell, one can only wonder what other horrors the investigation is going to uncover!
In a sketch aired a couple of weeks ago on his talk show, comedian Conan O’Brien reveals the newest product to come out of Apple, further highlight the New York Times article: The iNett, a safety net that catches suicidal, building-jumping Foxconn workers and slingshots them back to their spots on the assembly line.
Apple CEO was not happy with what was written by the Times and took it to himself to write a letter to all of Apple’s employees. Cook wrote:
As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.
For the many hundreds of you who are based at our suppliers’ manufacturing sites around the world, or spend long stretches working there away from your families, I know you are as outraged by this as I am. For the people who aren’t as close to the supply chain, you have a right to know the facts.
Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we’ve made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people.
At the same time, no one has been more up front about the challenges we face. We are attacking problems aggressively with the help of the world’s foremost authorities on safety, the environment, and fair labor. It would be easy to look for problems in fewer places and report prettier results, but those would not be the actions of a leader.
Earlier this month we opened our supply chain for independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association. Apple was in a unique position to lead the industry by taking this step, and we did it without hesitation. This will lead to more frequent and more transparent reporting on our supply chain, which we welcome. These are the kinds of actions our customers expect from Apple, and we will take more of them in the future.
We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment. As you know, more than a million people have been trained by our program.
We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.
To those within Apple who are tackling these issues every day, you have our thanks and admiration. Your work is significant and it is changing people’s lives. We are all proud to work alongside you.
Cook’s full letter is available on 9to5mac.
Concerned consumers have attached more than 218,000 signatures to a petition titled” Apple: Protect Workers Making iPhones in Chinese Factories”