Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

Summary: It's likely that other tech firms will join the Fair Labor Association and outside audits in Apple's wake.

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Apple said it has asked the Fair Labor Association to audit the company's Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China. The move comes after Apple has taken heat for working conditions in its supply chain.

According to Apple, a team of labor rights experts started inspections Monday at Foxconn City. Foxconn makes the iPad and iPhone for Apple. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) described itself this way:

Incorporated in 1999, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a collaborative effort of socially responsible companies, colleges and universities, and civil society organizations to improve working conditions in factories around the world. The FLA has developed a Workplace Code of Conduct, based on ILO standards, and created a practical monitoring, remediation and verification process to achieve those standards.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, said in a statement:

We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers.

Cook has bristled at the argument that Apple doesn't monitor its supply chain conditions. As noted before, Apple isn't the only company that relies on China manufacturers for its wares.

Also seeApple's supply chain flap: It's really about usCNET: Tim Cook: Apple cares about ‘every worker’ in its supply chain

Under Apple's deal with the Fair Labor Association, inspectors will have unrestricted access to Foxconn, Quanta and Pegatron facilities. Those three contract manufacturers account for 90 percent of Apple's product assemblies.

Apple, like other technology companies, has published an audit of its supply chain. Third party verification, however, adds a little more meat to those audits.

Apple was among the early supporters of the FLA. The companies in the group, however, are mostly apparel players such as Adidas, Puma, New Balance, Nike, Liz Claiborne and a host of others. It's likely that other tech firms will join the Fair Labor Association and outside audits in Apple's wake.

While you can question the FLA's ability to audit well and whether these third party inspections will have teeth, Apple's move is a good one that could set off a chain reaction in the tech industry. Here's a look at what Foxconn's parent Hon Hai makes. As you can see, there's a lot more than Apple gear being manufactured at Foxconn.

The big question is whether any audit can track how Foxconn workers are treated. The employee base has ballooned in recent years. Here's the employee growth via Foxconn's corporate responsibility report.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple, Banking, Software

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44 comments
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  • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

    Is that graph saying there are near a 100k workers in that Foxconn City plant?

    I used to work in a plant that basically had its own town of 10-15k and the facility had over 150 buildings spread over probably 100 acres easily. That Foxconn plant must be massive. It will be interesting to see what kind of 'results' this audit gets.
    dtdono0
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @dtdono0 Nope - that's nearly a million workers, although not all in a single plant. Its biggest plant, in Longhua, employs over 230,000.
      Ian.Betteridge
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @dtdono0, I think you may have missed by an order of magnitude. 935,000 not 93,500. (the unit is 10K in the graph not 1K)
      YaBaby
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @dtdono0

      That's total Foxconn employees. They have (according to Wikipedia) 13 plants in China, as well as several in Mexico, Europe, India and Brazil.
      msalzberg
  • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

    "Apple, like other technology companies, has published an audit of its supply chain. Third party verification, however, adds a little more meat to those audits."<br><br>Really? like which tech companies? I have looked around on Lenovo, can't find it, and it took some digging to find HP's, it is almost like these companies don't want you to find their audit reports. Apple prominently displays theirs on the main page. <br><br>Also, while suicide is an awful thing, anyone ever look at average suicide rates? In the US it is 11.3 people per 100,000 people. <br> <a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml</a> <br><br>With Foxconn employing nearly 1m people, that means that it would be in line to have 113 suicide attempts given the rate of the US, so in having only 17 attempts per 1m people, that is quite low at a rate of only 1.7 per 100,000. <br><br>To be clear that doesn't justify 16 hour work days, or conditions harmful to the health of the workers, or any kind of child labor, but it puts the suicide rate into perspective.

    Also given that those 17 attempts were over a decade, that suicide rate at Foxconn is even lower.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      It's not just "16 hour work days" it's sometimes 36 hour shifts, especially when a new iPad, iPhone. Wii or Kindle is coming out. It's 25 cents an hour. They're forced to sign an agreement that they will not hold the company responsible in case of injury, death or suicide. One man committed suicide after losing an iPhone 4 that was his responsibility. If they talk about unions they can get up to 12 years in prison, not to mention the child labor. All these conditions exist while Apple posted record profits of 46 BILLION dollars in the last quarter of 2011. So please, don't try to negate what the conditions are by justifying the suicide rate.
      chaserblue
      • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

        @chaserblue <br>Apple is 40% of Foxconn's business but HP is 25%. You going to bust them as well or is it all Apple's fault these people committed suicide?<br>Apple doesn't dictate the working conditions for these people. You cannot say that Apple's releases of products automatically force the workers to kill themselves or makes Foxconn change their working conditions. It's a communist nation. Foxconn is trying to make a profit and are the sole responsible party for forcing these conditions!
        Quit trying to make Apple out to be the bad guy. Blame HP too and our government and the unions for forcing companies off shore with ridiculous regulations. Obama is trying to appease the environmentalist so he can get their votes but what his campaign hasn't brought to light is in one instance he killed 20,000 plus jobs in America. Stupid environmentalist and the Obama administration have brought on way too many regulations that are anti-business and it's killing our country.
        rpollard@...
      • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

        @chaserblue You cannot just say 25 cents an hour is an issue, it also depends on the cost of living.
        mrlinux
      • As I said,

        @chaserblue I don't condone the working conditions. The pay factor is arguable given their relatively low standard of living. Again, keep in mind Apple is not the only company that contracts with Foxconn. Foxconn can dictate some terms to Apple if they need to increase pay, or hire more people. Foxconn isn't exactly the victim here either, they are the employer after all.

        And if you want to talk about holding the company harmless, review the case of Jamie Leigh Jones and KBR a Haliburton Subsidiary.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

        @chaserblue Just a thought here, certain MD's/DO's, especially surgeons, regularly do 36 hour shifts.
        m0o0o0o0o
      • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

        @chaserblue No but don't try to figure the rate of the Chinese workers based on a US wage. What IS the prevailing wage in China for factory workers? Also with that $.25 is room and board. And what IS the national suicide rate in Chine vs the suicide rate at Foxconn - aside from your obvious Apple hatred it is quite relevant.

        And if you've NEVER worked a 36 hour shift don't even come on here in a huff acting like it's slave labor - [i]I'VE[/i] worked a few 36 hour shifts in my time... at the end I was worn out but hardly suicidal.
        athynz
      • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

        @chaserblue Not to split hairs but the average Foxconn worker in China makes 51 cents an hour, which is almost double what a Chinese piece goods laborer makes in southern China (home to most of the sweatshops)
        sesalmon
      • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

        @chaserblue
        I'm pretty sure it's the Chinese government putting workers in prison, not Foxconn. It's laughable that people are concerned about Foxconn workers but not the Chinese people. Smells like this sudden outrage was financed by Apple's competitors. For those that have not been keeping up with foreign affairs China is still the same totalitarian government that runs over demonstrators with tanks and throws dissenters in jail to rot.
        gcrain@...
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      While the suicide rate may be low, take a look at pictures of these plants and see all the nets put up around buildings and bars put on windows. Makes it very hard to accomplish. A lot of suicide attempts are most likely not even reported.
      stex97
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh You cannot compare a suicide rate for people working at a company with a national suicide rate.

      How many of the suicides in the US are by unemployed people, bankrupt people, terminally ill people or people in white collar jobs?

      What is the suicide rate for manufacturing jobs in the US? (Yes, people still make stuff here.) Pretty sure it will be less than the national average.
      Stark_Industries
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh Wow. SOMEONE did their research.
      m0o0o0o0o
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh <br><br>I wonder... where do you get your facts? 17 attempts over a decade? Try 18 attempts and 14 successes between January and November, 2010. if this were indeed well below any national averages then I guess it would be no big deal and the factories would not be increasing wages and improving working conditions... except they are, which means that it is a big deal. Of course you take some incorrect facts, do a little number crunching and try to tell us there's no big deal.<br><br>This is a big deal and its good that at least some people outside of the ones jumping off roofs and slitting their wrists are taking it seriously. Its good to see that Apple is taking action (after some people made a big deal about a lower than average suicide rate at the Foxconn plant) and asking for the FLA to conduct independent audits since their own audits found no big deal. <br><br>So Apple "prominently" displays their audit report on the main page. Is that the one where they found no big deal about working conditions at the Foxconn plant? Even though 20 Chinese universities conducted their own studies with much different findings?<br><br>I didn't mean for my whole post to be so sarcastic but its so difficult to respond to these posts in other other manner.

      For the clueless, the labor problem isn't the wages, Foxconn pays plenty well for the areas they have set up shop. How else do you get almost 1 million employees to come live and work at your factory? $.51 an hour is really good money in China, but it would be even better if the employees could go home to their families at the end of a reasonable work day and had all the safety equipment and standards that better developed countries enjoy. Their are many employees who were interviewed by the press once the suicides caused Foxconn to open up their facilities who stated predictably that the working conditions at Foxconn were not bad and much better really than other factories in China. Of course when Foxconn employs over 800,000 people and has an annual turnover rate of 30 to 40% they'd better not complain about their $0.51 an hour job. At roughly double the national average for factory workers in China and Foxconn replacing 320,000 employees a year it wouldn't be a very good idea to complain. Besides it might be the truth that Foxconn is better than some other factories... but that doesn't necessarily make it a great place to work either.
      techadmin.cc@...
  • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

    Why is this just limited to Apple? They are not the only tech company that uses Foxconn.
    gribittmep
    • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

      @gribittmep
      Cuz there's Apple haters here and they jump at any chance they get. What blows my mind is they aren't blaming HP which is 25% of Foxconn's business and HP isn't even investigating working conditions like Apple is. Where's the haters at when it comes to being fair. There is no such thing as fair when you hate.
      Also, what the crap are they blaming Apple for the working conditions at a company they don't control??? Apple's release schedules has no bearing on whether or not a company makes workers work for 36 hours straight. They need to plan better and care about their employees more to not do crap like this but Apple has nothing to do with how Foxconn manages their employees. NOTHING!!!
      rpollard@...
      • RE: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

        @rpollard@...
        You're right, there's no such thing as being fair to someone or something one hates. That said, Foxconn is a contractor. They submit a tender for a contract. A big part of this tender is the price. If their price isn't right, they won't get the contract. It's easy to turn a blind eye to labour conditions as long as one gets a good deal and then claim to be in no way responsible for the labour conditions of one's contractor.

        The inspectors will most likely be bought. They'll recommend a few cheap reforms that basically changes nothing. Foxconn will act on a few of these recommendations, Apple will shout out their altruism from the rooftops and it will be business as usual.
        itadmin@...