NYT: Apple Is Making Good Progress With Foxconn Working Conditions Overseas [Report]

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Apple CEO Tim Cook spent time with Foxconn employees during his visit to China earlier this year.
Tim Cook spent time with Foxconn employees during his visit to China earlier this year.

The New York Times raised quite a stink at the beginning of this year with its provocative ‘iEconomy’ series on the poor working conditions at Foxconn, Apple’s largest manufacturing partner in China. After running headlines like “In China, human costs are built into an iPad,” the Times has published a new report that more positively portrays Apple’s recent efforts to improve working conditions in the supply chain.

After the mainstream media turned its attention to Apple and Foxconn, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) got involved to help ensure quality factory life for Chinese workers. For years, Apple has also been performing detailed audits of over 800 facilities where parts for its products are made and assembled. The Cupertino company has been beefing up its requirements in order to set the bar even higher in the supply chain. All of the combined efforts have resulted in better overall working conditions and pay raises for Foxconn employees. But that doesn’t mean there’s no more progress to be made.

Foxconn Admits To Using Underage Interns As Young As 14

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hi-852-foxconn-workers
Foxconn says it will fire the employees responsible for hiring underage workers.

Foxconn has admitted to finding underage interns as young as 14 working in one of its Chinese plants, where the minimum legal working age is 16. The company, which assembles Apple’s hugely popular iOS devices, has sent all underage workers back to their schools, and it’s now investigating how they were ended up at its plant.

Apple & Foxconn Worker Abuse: “Nothing’s Changed”

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Tim Cook visits Foxconn, where Apple's iMacs are traditionally assembled.
Despite a visit from Apple CEO Tim Cook, Foxconn shows little signs of improvement.

Following the Fair Labor Association’s audit into Foxconn working conditions earlier this year, which unearthed several labor violations, including unlawful working hours, poor pay, and a total disregard for health and safety, Apple and Foxconn promised to make some major improvements.

However, two months on, activists say violations “remain the norm,” and that there is no evidence of any significant changes in Foxconn’s Chinese factories.

Foxconn CEO: There’s Nothing Wrong With Sweatshops [Lost In Translation]

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We all work in a sweatshop and we love it!
We all work in a sweatshop and we love it!

Whether or not Foxconn’s running sweatshops is some matter of debate. The China Labor Watch says Foxconn’s iPhone assembly lines are sweatshops, while the Fair Labor Association says that factory worker conditions are much, much better than at actual sweatshops.

Now Foxconn CEO Terry Gou is trying to settle the debate. Yes, Gou says, Foxconn may well be running a sweatshop… but what’s wrong with sweatshops anyway?

Apple Will Team Up With Environmental Group To Audit Chinese Supply Chain For Pollution

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Pollution is a big issue in China, but Apple is doing its bit to help.
Pollution is a big issue in China, but Apple is doing its bit to help.

Apple is set to expand its environmental concern by teaming up with China’s Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs to audit its Chinese supply chain for pollution. Joint investigations are expected to start “in the next few weeks,” according to one report, with “a maker of printed circuit boards” the first of Apple’s suppliers to enter the spotlight.

What’s Going Wrong At Foxconn (And What Can Be Done To Fix Things)

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foxconn

We’ve read through the Fair Labor Association’s report on Foxconn’s facilities, and while the picture it paints of conditions is bleak, they’re not insurmountably awful, or even particularly Dickensian. Rather, these are issues that can be fixed… many through simple communication.

Here’s all the bad in the FLA’s report, and what Foxconn can do to fix things.

Fair Labor Association Finds Widescale Violations Of Foxconn Factory Worker Rights [Breaking]

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Foxconn employees are about to get a lot happier.
Foxconn employees are about to get a lot happier.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that “no one in our industry is driving improvements for workers the way Apple is today,” and to put the company’s money where its mouth was, Cupertino invited the Fair Labor Association to do a thorough audit of working conditions at Foxconn.

Now the results are in, and there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the Fair Labor Association found wide scale violations of Chinese labor laws, including the amount of overtime worked, the compensation received for overtime, and numerous health and safety risks, as well as “crucial communication gaps that have led to a widespread sense of unsafe working conditions among workers.”

The good news? Apple and Foxconn are fully on board fixing the issues. That’s why they agreed to the audit, and that’s why they’re committing to being compliant with all of the FLA’s guidelines by 2013. Oh, and they’re going to hire a lot more staff and workers to help even the load.

From Silicon Valley To Shenzhen [Exclusive Book Excerpt]

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A view of Shenzhen, CC-licensed on Wikimedia by Mauchai.
A view of Shenzhen, CC-licensed on Wikimedia by Mauchai.

Mike Daisey’s NPR monologue may have misrepresented his experience at Foxconn in China, but his main findings about working conditions there ring true.

Underage workers, health hazards and debilitating overtime are findings echoed by sociologist Dr. Boy Lüthje, who has spent the last decade researching labor conditions at China’s contract manufacturers where U.S. tech giants including Apple, Dell and HP make the electronic devices that populate our homes.

(You can read Cult of Mac’s exclusive interview with him here.)

Along with a team of researchers, he’s the author of a forthcoming academic work titled From Silicon Valley to Shenzen. The data here, Lüthje notes, is from late 2009 (before the wave of suicides hit Foxconn) but the general conditions remain largely unaltered. When it hits shelves, the book will include updated comments on Foxconn and Apple, he says.

Publisher Rowman & Littlefield granted Cult of Mac permission to publish an excerpt from Chapter 4, which similarities between electronics assembly plants in Mexico, China and Eastern Europe.