In January 2012, The New York Times published a lengthy report covering the problems with Foxconn’s plants in China. The piece caused uproar, and it pushed Apple to perform its own audit in the factories that make its products and work to address the issues the audit found. Close to a year after publishing its first report, the New York Times has followed up with a second piece that found working conditions are getting better. One of the first steps was in March, when top Apple executives met with Foxconn executives to reduce worker hours and increase wages in 2013. This is said to create a ripple effect that will benefit the entire manufacturing industry.
Past wages and hours, changes are also coming about within the plant. According to the New York Times, new safety measures like automatic shut-off devices and protective foam are now in place to protect workers when doing their difficult jobs of assembling various Apple products. The piece told a story of one worker receiving a wooden, sturdy chair more comfortable on her back than the green plastic stool she once used. Apple also tripled the staff at its California headquarters to ensure safe working conditions across the world.
The changes also extend to California, where Apple is based. Apple, the electronics industry’s behemoth, in the last year has tripled its corporate social responsibility staff, has re-evaluated how it works with manufacturers, has asked competitors to help curb excessive overtime in China and has reached out to advocacy groups it once rebuffed.
Earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook spoke a lot about worker safety while changes were underway. “We insist that our manufacturing partners follow Apple’s strict code of conduct, and to make sure they do, the Supplier Responsibility team led more than 200 audits at facilities throughout our supply chain last year,” said Cook in an email. “These audits make sure that working conditions are safe and just, and if a manufacturer won’t live up to our standards, we stop working with them.” Subsequently, Apple issued a statement to the New York Times this week on the recent changes:
In a statement, it said the company embraced its “unique position to lead” and had taken working conditions very seriously for a long time. “No one in our industry is doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people as we do. Through years of hard work and steadfast commitment, we have set workplace, dormitory and safety standards, sought help from the world’s leading experts, and established groundbreaking educational programs for workers.”
“We have been upfront about the challenges we face and are attacking issues aggressively,” the statement continues. “We believe deeply in transparency and have demonstrated this through reporting our shortcomings and exposing violations.”