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Apple Responds to Labor Accusations 58

jlaxson writes "Back in June, a number of accusations were leveled at Apple regarding labor practices in its overseas manufacturing and assembly plants. At the time, Apple denied the allegations and said that it would launch an investigation. Today, the results of the investigation were released. From the report: 'We found the supplier to be in compliance in the majority of the areas audited. However, we did find violations to our Code of Conduct, as well as other areas for improvement that we are working with the supplier to address. What follows is a summary of what we've learned, what's already being done in response, and our commitment to future diligence and action.'"
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Apple Responds to Labor Accusations

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  • work more than 60 hours a week?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcr ( 53032 )
      I sure did, but not year-round.

      -jcr

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Steve Jobs! He works 192 hours per week. He's incroyable.
    • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:18AM (#15933133)
      I worked in Mountain View for a while. It wasn't unusual to be leaving at 8pm in the evening. But having said that, I was being paid an enormous salary, the atmosphere and environment was relaxed and there were perks like free food and soda for doing so. I expect Chinese sweatshops don't let their staff lie around on beanbags or play table football when they feel like it.
    • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:00AM (#15933233) Homepage
      In an unusual twist, the working conditions in Japan are now actually better than the working conditions in the USA.

      Prior to 2000, stories about death by overwork were not uncommon in Japan. The Japanese government recently enacted a law that effectively limits the amount of overtime that engineers may be forced to work. A recent article [iht.com] by the "New York Times" refers to the issue of limiting overtime.

      Other articles commenting on this matter suggest that the law restricts overtime by requiring companies to pay engineers increased wages for each additional hour beyond 8 hours per day. According to one source [japanlaw.info], each hour of overtime must be paid 125% of standard pay.

      Is there any chance that the California government will limit overtime in the same lucrative way (i.e., lucrative for the employees)?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by udderly ( 890305 )
        Isn't it funny how those overtime hours that employers *need* us to work so badly dry up when they have to start paying for them.
      • by Tom ( 822 )
        Is there any chance that the California government will limit overtime in the same lucrative way (i.e., lucrative for the employees)?

        There's a much higher chance that if you ask for it, they'll use the threat of outsourcing to shoot the idea down.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Is there any chance that the California government will limit overtime in the same lucrative way (i.e., lucrative for the employees)?
        It already does. If you are paid hourly, you are paid overtime. If you are salaried, you aren't necessarily paid overtime. Salaried employees cannot have their vacation time or paycheck docked if they work less than a full day. (Or, they can, but then they get overtime.)

        There are various exceptions, but it's 1.5x base pay
        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )
          Well, I think that is pretty-much Federal labor law across the entire US. However, good luck working less than 40 hours per week - technically they need to pay you the same, but in real life they just fire you if it happens regularly.
      • In related news the French work fewer hours for better pay and more vacation than their counterparts in the United States. I for one am offended that we lag behind the French in anything, but doubly so when it comes to getting paid and getting time off. And no, not smelling bad and not being a cheese-eating surrender monkey are not enough to make up for it.
        • I get the equivilent of five weeks off a year with minimal overtime. I make somewhat over the average household income in the United States. I turned down a 50% raise going to another company where I wouldn't get half of the time off and more overtime. Most of my friends think I am nuts to turn down that kind of money.

          You see, very often it is about choices. For some reason, we are after the almighty buck. Me? Family first. So when you see these stats, remember, it is largely about people's choices, bot the
  • by RuBLed ( 995686 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:13AM (#15933119)
    may not be what is really happening.

    IMHO, most audits are scheduled and the management knows about it weeks or even months before the audit. This could buy the management "time" to "instruct" everyone about the audit and do some "beautification". This could also be the time "silence" and "hide" some people too. I'm not saying that the manufacturing facility was dishonest during the audit but given the location of the manufacturing facilities (China), I would not be suprised if they turned out to be dishonest. (who wants to lose a client anyway)

    But I really hope that the results of the audit are honest and true for the sake of all those people working there. Minor improvements there could greatly help the welfare of the workers.
    • Indeed.

      On top of that, according to this bbc report [bbc.co.uk], the audit was pretty lax - interviewing just 100 employees from more than 30,000.

      Also, we have this report of the audit - but noone knows where the factory is to independantly verify it.

      Can we trust Apple? They just denied the initial report - and now it seems there was some violations. Is this report the complete truth?
      • "On top of that, according to this bbc report, the audit was pretty lax - interviewing just 100 employees from more than 30,000."

        Surveys claimed to represent the opinion of the entire United States regularly use only one or two thousand respondents.

        By that standard, 100 out of a mere 30,000 ought to be enough to peg the situation correctly.
    • > This could buy the management "time" to "instruct" everyone about
      > the audit and do some "beautification".

      Are you kidding me? This place is the size of a small city. Apple gets 15% of their business. Consider those two facts, and ask yourself if they had either the capability or interest in doing what you suggest.

      Why is it so hard for people to believe that working conditions in the rest of the world simply aren't that bad? Because Fox News had a "special" on it? Because China is the "bad guy" for t
      • by gutnor ( 872759 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @10:15AM (#15934358)
        "Why is it so hard for people to believe that working conditions in the rest of the world simply aren't that bad? "

        I guess people tends to believe that because of human nature. They see that employers even in country like EU, USA, ... need to be -legally- reminded from time to time than employees are not slaves or pigs. So they wonder what happen in countries where law is not as strong.
        Also, they know very well that Apple and IBM and other don't go in China in good heart to help local population to develop. They are no ONG, they are business managed by the same sort of people that showed utter disrespect even to their fellow citizen ( ENRON, ... ). So they have hard to believe that they behave like choir boys in China.

        Everybody is happy if everything is fine in this plant but that's always good to remind companies like Apple, IBM that "Chinese are cool with their people" argument is not enough if they don't want to make the cover of Fox News. At least if they outsource my job, I want guarantee that people that get it are treated fairly and improve their life with it, so that at least not everything is lost.
    • Your point stands, but Apple says

      In response to the allegations, we immediately dispatched an audit team comprised of members from our human resources, legal and operations groups to carry out a thorough investigation of the conditions at the manufacturing site.

      So we don't know how immediate they were, but they seem to have similar concerns.

      It found that that the #1 complaint from employees was that there was not enough overtime work in slow periods. I guess that shouldn't exactly alleviate your suspicions

      • "It found that that the #1 complaint from employees was that there was not enough overtime work in slow periods. I guess that shouldn't exactly alleviate your suspicions."

        Well, they clearly aren't there for their health - they're there to make money. And they probably want to make as much as possible as quickly as possible, in order to improve their lot in life - so they can afford a home or apartment. That means overtime.

        Some people in the West seem to forget that even poor Chinese laborers can have ambiti
        • Some people in the West seem to forget that even poor Chinese laborers...
          I swear, I considered that obvious enough to not bear mentioning. It still shouldn't exactly alleviate his suspicions. I can see that my comment might have read like that was sarcasm or something, but it wasn't. That's all I meant.
  • by cannonfodda ( 557893 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:22AM (#15933146)
    (Insert bad robot voice) 'It's not my fault."
  • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:32AM (#15933170) Homepage
    In 2004, HP, Dell, and IBM developed the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct [eicc.info] (EICC) in cooperation with key component suppliers: Celestica, Flextronics, Jabil, Sanmina SCI, and Solectron. The EICC is a standard of corporate social responsibility (e.g., treating employees well) that IBM and other systems companies expect from their suppliers. In other words, IBM will do business with only those Vietnamese electronics suppliers which abide by the EICC.

    The current list of companies subscribing to the EICC [eicc.info] includes Apple.

    Look carefully at the list. It is revealing. The only systems companies in that list are based in North America, Europe, and Japan. Acer (a Taiwanese systems house) and Samsung (a Korean systems house) are absent from that list. The only Taiwanese company on that list is Foxconn, a component supplier. Doubtless, tough pressure from IBM and other Western companies essentially "forced" Foxconn to comply with the EICC; otherwise, these Western companies would have dumped Foxconn as a supplier of PC connectors.

    No one should be surprised over Apple management's commitment to investigating allegations of worker abuse in Apple's supply chain. Apple is committed to the EICC and demands that its suppliers treat their employees well.

    If you had presented allegations of worker abuse to either Acer or Samsung, their managers would have arranged for security to throw you out of their offices.

    These days, with laptops and desktops becoming indistinguishable commodities, I use corporate social responsiblity as the deciding factor in my purchases. I will also prefer an Apple laptop over an Acer laptop.

    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      I use corporate social responsiblity as the deciding factor in my purchases.

      You can use corportate responsiblity if you want. I use quality of the product. And it just so happens that the two best quality laptop builders are Apple and IBM (now Lenovo, not sure how things will change). Now, I wonder if the fact that these two are already involved in this program, goes hand-in-hand with the obvious quality they put in designing the laptops, or it is just a co-incidence.

      I hope so, but probably not sin
    • Also note that supporting EICC is in every American's best interest: it helps prevent outsourcing.

      If we mandate that all workers get paid living wage, get health and retirement benefits regardless of where they are located, there will no longer be an incentive for American companies to outsource our jobs. Currently we are losing jobs because we cannot compete with $0.12/hr Chinese child slaves that die of cancer by age 20.

      Wanna do business with the US of A? Pay ALL your workers properly!
      • by ksheff ( 2406 )
        if the "living wage" is based on local conditions, it will still be a lot cheaper to build things in China than the US or EU.
    • The current list of companies subscribing to the EICC [eicc.info] includes Apple.

      According to Apple's report, they only joined the EICC after being shamed into it by the original 'sweatshop ipods' tabloid report.

      use corporate social responsiblity as the deciding factor in my purchases. I will also prefer an Apple laptop over an Acer laptop.

      Apple's laptops are made (mostly) by asustek, in the same chinese factories as the Acers. If you're looking for corporate social responsiblity, forget buying a laptop (o
    • Apple is committed to the EICC and demands that its suppliers treat their employees well.

      Except that Apple buys a much of components from samsung directly, not even counting what they use as a result of the contracts they put out. At one point Apple was getting 40% [businessweek.com] of Samsungs flash memory capacity.

      If you had presented allegations of worker abuse to either Acer or Samsung, their managers would have arranged for security to throw you out of their offices.

      Where are you getting this? Can you back this

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      Apple doesn't abide by the EICC. It's just a PR dodge for them. They get around it by "contracting out" much of their manufacturing to companies that buy from sweatshops.

      -Eric

    • by Rob86TA ( 955953 )

      In 2004, HP, Dell, and IBM developed the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct (EICC) in cooperation with key component suppliers: Celestica, Flextronics, Jabil, Sanmina SCI, and Solectron.

      Wow, we definitely present a good face! About 2 days after the Apple article came out, our company began scrambling and announced that we were implementing EICC globally. Strange that we helped IBM develop it in 2004, but we only just now are implementing the training, audits and meetings. Then again we're not as commerc

  • Also... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Slaryn ( 986308 )
    We have to keep in mind that Apple's Code of Conduct != the law (though it may to them). Looks like they're not really breaking any rules here... just employee backs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rosyna ( 80334 )
      While this is true, Apple would just drop Foxcomm completely. You may think that Apple would never do this due to the amount of money Apple could lose. You'd be wrong. Steve Jobs has been known to drop companies that embarrass him, even if dropping them means less profits.
  • The report claims Longhua's workers live in dormitories that house 100 people, and that visitors from the outside world are not permitted. Workers toil for 15-hours a day to make the iconic music player, the report claims. They earn £27 per month. The report reveals that the iPod nano is made in a five-storey factory (E3) that is secured by police officers.

    But I thought the iPod nano was cool and could be traded for 2 grams of coke on the open market??

    What am I missing?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A punchline?
  • "We did, however, find that employees worked longer hours than permitted by our Code of Conduct, which limits normal workweeks to 60 hours and requires at least one day off each week."

    A "normal" workweek maxes out at six days and sixty hours? That's nasty. Things like this remind me how lucky I was to be born in the US.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A "normal" workweek maxes out at six days and sixty hours? That's nasty. Things like this remind me how lucky I was to be born in the US.

      Until recent generations, 60 hours or more a week was normal in the US, too. Traditionally, Sunday was the only day off; Saturday was just another work day.
      • Next month I will be working 90-100 hours a week, because it is our busy month. Being a store manager, I make commission only. I also have to pay my employees out of my paycheck. I make about 24k/year (at least that's what I made last year). Now, certainly this probably breaks some labor law, but so far I haven't found a replacement job, so I stay. I *am* beginning to consider McD's and other fast food manager positions, and Starbucks, cause not much could be worse for the pay/hours as what I'm doing no
    • by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:28AM (#15934916)

      Funny, 'cos I could've sworn the engineers that worked at my last place of employment regularly did 80h, unpaid OT, and regularly worked weekends too. Glad to see the Chinese "sweatshop" labour beats out good old fixed-salary American employment!

    • I [edified.org] think this is an important bit left out [appleinsider.com] of the summary [emph mine]

      "We found no instances of forced overtime and employees confirmed in interviews that they could decline overtime requests without penalty . We did, however, find that employees worked longer hours than permitted by our Code of Conduct, which limits normal workweeks to 60 hours and requires at least one day off each week."

      Looks like lots of overtime may be due to the overriding social/economic climate. These are the people who want to wor

  • ...is that the mandatory black turtle-neck sweaters easily get stuck in dangerous machinery. On the plus side, the jeans were supposedly not so bad. Unfortunately, the factories with mandatory kimono [wikimedia.org] dress codes do have even higher accident rates.
  • http://darkcreek.com/node/337 [darkcreek.com]

    Pretty interesting if you think the site's reputable.
  • why is everyone so up in arms about labor conditions in china? why are we trying to force our value system on another culture?

    if any of you guys have ever actually gone over to china, and talked to the factory workers, then you'll realize that their standard of living's very much high than it was before the factories.

    they're buying gucci bags and other luxury items (though at a deep discount)....
    • by bunions ( 970377 )
      Some are. Others are still very, very poor. All (ok, most) of the new Chinese wealth is concentrated at the very top. If you're a trickle-down kind of guy, this'll be good news to you. I tend to view it as fuel for the (counter?) revolution, but that's just me.
    • by ksheff ( 2406 )

      why are we trying to force our value system on another culture?

      because it reduces profits, otherwise it would be punishable by the PC-police.

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