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:

You have lot of young people, coming from rural areas, away from families for the first time. They’re taken from a rural into an industrial lifestyle, often quite an intense one, and that’s quite a shock to these young workers. And we find that they often need some kind of emotional support, and they can’t get it. Factories initially didn’t realize those workers needed emotional support.

A month ago Apple became the first technology company admitted to the FLA after longstanding Foxconn issues became a mainstream topic of big media. Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed worker safety during yesterday’s speech at the Goldman Sachs conference. Repeating that Apple cares about every worker, Cook said he “spent a lot of time in factories personally” to understand working conditions “at a very granular level.” Cook, a supply chain wizard, talked aggressively that “every worker has the right to a fair and safe work environment, free of discrimination, where they can earn competitive wages, and voice their concerns freely.”

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