Apple faces possible boycott over Foxconn reports

Several high-profile media outlets are calling for a boycott of Apple products, amid new reports of mistreatment of workers at the company's manufacturing chain in China.

Several high-profile media outlets are calling for a boycott of Apple products, amid new reports of mistreatment of workers at the company's manufacturing chain in China.

The New York Times first ignited media interest last week with a series of articles describing terrible working conditions at factories belonging to Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn. The company has several factories in mainland China where it produces components for an array electronic devices, including the Apple iPad.

The newspaper described conditions resembling bonded labour, with employees being forced to work obscenely long shifts in unhealthy conditions, and without many of the labour rights that workers in the West would take for granted. It also mentioned people being killed in explosions at iPad factories, and workers being given poisonous chemicals with which to clean iPhone screens.

Industry commentators from a number of publications have responded to the New York Times report, calling on consumers to boycott Apple.

Dan Lyons, who writes for The Daily Beast and Newsweek, described the situation as "barbaric", but said that "ultimately the blame lies not with Apple and other electronics companies - but with us, the consumers. And ultimately we are the ones who must demand change".

The Los Angeles Times and Forbes magazine added to the outcry, with Forbes columnist Peter Cohan stating that the number of workers who die building iPhones and iPads is "shockingly high". Others have also pointed to Apple's failure to adequately respond to the reports, and the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones has suggested that the company needs a new PR strategy.

Apple is not the only international technology company to use Foxconn, however, and this is also not the first time that working conditions at Foxconn have made headlines.

Earlier this year, Microsoft was forced to deal with reports that 150 people working on the Xbox 360 assembly line at the Foxconn Technology Park in Wuhan had threatened to commit mass suicide. Microsoft claimed that the suicide protest had to do with working conditions, and was related to staffing assignments and transfer policies.

Foxconn also faced a string of worker suicides in 2010, amid reports in the Chinese media that its staff were being abused. The company agreed to raise the wages of its workers by 20 percent, despite reports that the it had considered closing its mainland Chinese plants, and Foxconn installed anti-jumper nets on its high-rise buildings to prevent more suicides.

Then in May 2011, a number of Foxconn workers were killed in an explosion at a factory in Chengdu. The explosion happened in a polishing workshop in the factory where Apple's iPad 2 tablets were being made, and is believed to have been caused by a build-up of aluminium dust.

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook has responded to the latest allegations in an internal email to staff, obtained by 9to5Mac, stating that Apple cares about every worker in its worldwide supply chain.

"Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us," he wrote. "As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values."

Cook added that Apple inspects its factories every year and has helped to improve conditions for "hundreds of thousands of workers". He also said the company was focused on educating workers about their rights, and promised to never turn a blind eye to problems in the company's supply chain.

Would you boycott Apple to help improve worker conditions for Foxconn employees? Let us know in comments below.

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Sophie Curtis

Unknown Publication
Topics: rights, suicide, Apple, worker, foxconn, mistreatment, boycott

Comments

Anonymous

1

As Samsung is a supplier of Apple components, should we not be boycotting them also?

James

2

Things need to be taken into context. Lyons is a hack of the worst degree

http://twitpic.com/8e5coh

Russell

3

Apple screws their suppliers, the US government and their own employees.

The deplorable working conditions in China are the result of Apple's constant pressure on the suppliers to increase productivity while reducing costs. Apple insists on knowing the supplier's cost of the parts and labor. Apple then decides how much profit they(the supplier) can have. A year later, Apple will demand a 10% price cut. The suppliers start cutting corners, exposing their workers to dangerous and sometimes fatal working conditions.

Chinese workers urge Apple to act on n-hexane poisoning
"From when hexyl hydride was used, monthly profits at Apple and Wintek have gone up by tens of millions every month, the accumulated outcome of workers' lives and health," said the letter, signed by five workers claiming to represent employees.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/22/chinese-workers-apple-nhexane-poisoning

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad
"Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost," said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple's most important manufacturing partners.
"Workers' welfare has nothing to do with their interests," he said.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html

Do any of us really believe Apple is hurting for money? Apple is one of the richest companies in the world, yet they are asking the government for a "Tax Holiday", WIN America Campaign [winamericacampaign.org]. Apple created foreign subsidiaries to avoid paying US taxes. Apple has accumulated $64 billion dollars overseas and now wants to bring that money back into the US at a lower tax rate. They claim they will reinvest it and create more jobs.
In 2004, companies got their wish. The 15 companies that benefited the most from the tax break cut more than 20,000 net jobs and decreased the pace of their research spending.

"There is no evidence that the previous repatriation tax giveaway put Americans to work, and substantial evidence that it instead grew executive paychecks, propped up stock prices, and drew more money and jobs offshore," Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement Monday night. "Those who want a new corporate tax break claim it will help rebuild our economy, but the facts are lined up against them."
Report: Repatriation Tax Holiday a 'Failed' Policy
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203633104576623771022129888.html

Apple screws their own employees.
In a labor market, workers compete for jobs and employers compete for workers. You work at a company because you feel you are getting the best compensation possible. When companies want to hire away good people they offer even better compensation. Apple prevented other companies from doing that. They conspired with other companies to not "poach" each other's workers. As a result, compensation is kept artificially low.
Thankfully, a Civil lawsuit has been filed and U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said it can proceed.
Steve Jobs told Google to stop poaching workers
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/27/us-apple-lawsuit-idUSTRE80Q27420120127

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