If you have been following my blog, you will know that as part of my case-study I’ve been looking at Apple’s “mistreatment” of workers.
This week, the NYTimes issued a report with some of the findings from the investigation they have been participating in. These are the main points from the report.
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records. Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays.
The NYTimes also spoke to former employees to get their opinion on the situation. Li Mingqi, a former manager at the plant said the following;
Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost. Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests.
Former Apple executives also chipped in, anonymously of course, giving a very strong statement in regards to the “accidents” and explosions that have happened in the factories over the past year or so.
We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on. Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice. If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years? If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.
Well, you know what they say about good timing. Today, Tim Cook (Apple CEO) has released a statement via email to all employee’s arguing against those NYTimes findings earlier in the week.
As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.
For the many hundreds of you who are based at our suppliers’ manufacturing sites around the world, or spend long stretches working there away from your families, I know you are as outraged by this as I am. For the people who aren’t as close to the supply chain, you have a right to know the facts.
Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we’ve made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people.
At the same time, no one has been more up front about the challenges we face. We are attacking problems aggressively with the help of the world’s foremost authorities on safety, the environment, and fair labor. It would be easy to look for problems in fewer places and report prettier results, but those would not be the actions of a leader.
Earlier this month we opened our supply chain for independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association. Apple was in a unique position to lead the industry by taking this step, and we did it without hesitation. This will lead to more frequent and more transparent reporting on our supply chain, which we welcome. These are the kinds of actions our customers expect from Apple, and we will take more of them in the future.
We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment. As you know, more than a million people have been trained by our program.
We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.
To those within Apple who are tackling these issues every day, you have our thanks and admiration. Your work is significant and it is changing people’s lives. We are all proud to work alongside you.
It was obvious that it would be 2 very contrasting opinions on the matter. After all, I don’t really expect Apple to come out an publicly criticise it’s own company especially on a case as big as this. As I said before, a lot of companies work in this way. Foxconn also makes other technology from brands such as Sony, Samsung and Toshiba so I would expect the same treatment in their parts of the factory.
This case study definitely goes a lot deeper and over the next few weeks, I’m going to try and gain more information to try and expose these companies even more.