FLA president: iPad plants are no sweatshops; boredom and monotony contributing to suicides

With the Fair Labor Association audit of Apple suppliers at Foxconn City underway for several days now, the first details are starting to trickle in. The non-profit agency’s head Auret van Heerden told Reuters that working conditions at Foxconn’s iPad plant are “far better” than those at their factories elsewhere in the country. It is a personal impression and not the official stance, because 30 FLA staff members have three weeks to interview about 35,000 workers at two Foxconn plants in China.

Workers will answer questions anonymously by entering their responses with iPads. Van Heerden was also surprised, he confessed, with how “tranquil” the floor at Foxconn plant is compared with a garment factory.

I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory. So the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory. . It’s more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps.

He speculated that workers are jumping out of windows to take their life due to boredom and alienation stemming from repetitive assembly tasks:

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Pegatron: Apple hasn’t informed us about forthcoming labor audits

Apple’s contract manufacturer Pegatron Technology of Taiwan is unaware of any forthcoming labor inspections at its Asian plants because its client has not officially tipped them about labor audits, according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Lin tells to Bloomberg. Lin was reacting to yesterday’s announcement by Apple of California that the first audits in cooperation with the Fair Labor Association have started at Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China.

Pegatron Corp., a maker of Apple Inc.’s iPhones, said it hasn’t been informed of any pending inspections of factory work conditions by labor groups, a day after the U.S. company said checks would start this spring. Pegatron is aware of Apple’s corporate social responsibility policies, Charles Lin, chief financial officer of the Taipei-based company, said by telephone today. The client hasn’t informed him about any upcoming audits, Lin said.

Apple previously confirmed that audits at Pegatron and Quanta Computer, the company assembling Mac notebooks, are due this spring. The company said the results of FLA audits will be made available on its website at the end of March. In the wake of the Foxconn scandal, a month ago Apple became the first technology company admitted to the FLA. That announcement followed Apple’s release of 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report that for the first time named 156 companies currently supplying components for Apple products, which left only three percent of suppliers absent from the list.

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Fair Labor Association begins audits of Apple suppliers at Foxconn City

Following the release of Apple’s “2012 Supplier Responsibility Report,” Apple announced it would be the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association. The FLA will “independently assess facilities in Apple’s supply chain,” and then publish its independent findings online. Apple announced through a press release today that the first audits have officially started with FLA President Auret van Heerden and his team beginning inspections at Foxconn City in Shenzhen. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the audits are “unprecedented in the electronics industry”: Read more

Group plans disruptive protest tomorrow at Apple’s Grand Central Store over Foxconn conditions

Consumer groups SumOfUs and Change.org are waging a war over the working conditions at Apple’s (and the rest of the electronics industry’s) main outsourced manufacturer Foxconn. The groups said that over 35,000 people signed their “Stop Worker Abuse” online petition in just 24 hours. Today, the groups announced they would deliver a quarter million petition signatures to Apple.

Furthermore, a protest will be staged tomorrow at 10 a.m. outside Apple’s new Grand Central Terminal retail store and representatives from both SumOfUs and Change.org promised to join the protesters. Change.org’s Mark Shields called abusive working conditions at Foxconn factories “appalling,” adding he was shocked to learn about them.

The two consumer groups are demanding that the iPhone maker release a worker protection strategy for new product releases because these are the instances “when injuries and suicides typically spike because of the incredible pressure to meet quotas timed to releases.” They are also pressuring Apple to publish the results of Fair Labor Association’s audit (to which the company willfully agreed): “Including the NAMES of the suppliers found to have violations and WHAT those violations are, so that there is transparency around the monitoring effort.” The petition (found here) opens with an interesting paragraph:

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Foxconn issues go mainstream thanks to This American Life and The Daily Show

Earlier this week, Apple pledged to let the Fair Labor Association access its suppliers’ facilities to monitor working conditions. Even though Apple is the first technology company admitted to the FLA, the snowballing issue of harsh conditions at Far East plants will not go away with the announcement. Quite the contrary, the problem has escalated and gone mainstream, with both The Daily Show and This American Life focusing on the grim reality of earning a living at Foxconn-operated sweatshops in China.

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show host and chief satirist, remarked in an episode yesterday:

By creating a convenient ecosystem, China’s Foxconn draws in employees who earn 31 cents an hour working for 35 hours straight, thereby saving American companies money.

As you know, Foxconn (also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry) is Apple’s favorite contract manufacturer, it but also produces gadgets for Amazon, Microsoft, HP, Dell and a variety of other brands. With that said, both shows tackle larger issues that affect just about every electronics manufacturer. The last week’s episode of This American Life, the popular radio program, weighed in as well. You can listen to their free audio stream here.

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