As most recently referenced in Tim Cook’s comments on worker safety at Goldman Sachs yesterday, Apple is spending a lot of effort in 2012 trying to solve allegations of abuse in their supply chain. This initiative has most recently culminated in Apple going to the unprecedented step of asking the Fair Labor Association to audit their factories.
The FLA’s report isn’t due until March, but already, the Fair Labor Association’s president Auret van Heerden has spoken out, saying that at first blush, Foxconn’s facilities appear to be “first-class” in comparison to the garment factories the association usually monitors.
After his first visits to Foxconn, van Heerden said, “The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm.”
He spent the past several days visiting Foxconn plants to prepare for the study.
“I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory,” he said. “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.”
The Fair Labor Association will be conducting their audit with the help of 30 staffers armed with iPads interviewing upwards of 35,000 Foxconn employees anonymously, asking questions from how the workers were hired, whether they understood their contracts, to how happy they were.
I have to say, I’m a little surprised by van Heerden’s open opining on how awesome Foxconn is compared to actual sweatshops before the audit is even really underway. It seems fairly clear to me that Apple does care about their workers — Cook’s remarks yesterday about how much time he had personally spent in factories in his life really seemed genuine to me — but the FLA already seems a little bit star-struck by all this. Will anything useful really come out of their report?