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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.
The radio show was dedicated to Mike Daisey’s highly acclaimed show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” Daisy recently exposed the inhumane working conditions at Foxconn’s Shenzhen, China factory. Part of his monologue was adapted for the radio, telling a brutal tale of what life is like at the Foxconn sweatshops. According to a brief synopsis over at the This America Life show’s website, the producers fact-checked Daisey’s claims and added a broader context to his findings:
What should we make of what Mike Daisey saw in China? Our staff did weeks of fact checking to corroborate Daisey’s findings. Ira talks with Ian Spaulding, founder and managing director of INFACT Global Partners, which goes into Chinese factories and helps them meet social responsibility standards set by Western companies (Apple’s Supplier Responsibility page is here), and with Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times who has reported in Asian factories. In the podcast and streaming versions of the program he also speaks with Debby Chan Sze Wan, a project manager at the advocacy group SACOM, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, based in Hong Kong. They’ve put out three reports investigating conditions at Foxconn (October 2010, May 2011, Sept 2011). Each report surveyed over 100 Foxconn workers, and they even had a researcher go undercover and take a job at the Shenzhen plant.
Apple in its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report stated it found 42 manufacturing facilities that delayed wages. Some 68 facilities did not provide proper benefits and 67 facilities held back payments as punishment. In addition, 108 facilities failed to pay legal requirements for overtime and holiday pay, five facilities were exposed with six active cases of underage labor. More than 200 audits Apple performed at their suppliers’ facilities around the world found 93 facilities that currently have more than 50 percent of its staff exceeding the maximum 60-hour workweek set by Apple’s Code of Conduct for suppliers. At 90 facilities, more than half of the records indicated that workers had worked more than 6 consecutive days at least once per month, and 37 facilities lacked an adequate working day control system to ensure that workers took at least 1 day off in every 7 days.
- Pegatron and Foxconn reportedly begin assembly of iPad 3 with Sharp display, launching in early-March (9to5mac.com)
- Apple’s cheaper iPhone 4 (N90A) pops up at Foxconn Brazil (9to5mac.com)