Friday, February 17th 2012

Fair Labour Association Calls Apple's Factories "First Class"

Earlier this week, it was reported that Apple was conducting inspections of the manufacturing facilities of its foundry partners via independent agencies, to assess working conditions and well-being of workers. It requested the Fair Labour Association (FLA) to carry out the inspections. In addition to Foxconn, the FLA will inspect facilities of Quanta Computer Inc, Pegatron Corp, Wintek Corp and others. While the final report of its inspections will be released only by late next month, FLA revealed its first impressions of what it saw.

The FLA finds the working conditions in foundry partner Foxconn's facilities "above average". Auret van Heerden, president of the FLA commented on the Foxconn inspection: "The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm." He continued, "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."

Mr. van Heerden went on to hypothesize the cause of worker suicides in China, which his organization has been studying since the 1990s. "You have lot of young people, coming from rural areas, away from families for the first time. They're taken from a rural into an industrial lifestyle, often quite an intense one, and that's quite a shock to these young workers. And we find that they often need some kind of emotional support, and they can't get it," he added. "Factories initially didn't realize those workers needed emotional support."Source: Reuters, Image Courtesy: NewsBiscuit
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52 Comments on Fair Labour Association Calls Apple's Factories "First Class"

#1
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
When average is dismal, "above average" really doesn't account for much improvement. Apple should be building highly automated assembly factories in the USA. It costs more up front but I bet it would be cheaper in the long run. :p
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#2
Sihastru
Well that was fast. I guess an "inspection" in China is conducted by phone or fax. 5 minutes is all it takes.

So much BS.
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#3
Completely Bonkers
Yes, I remember "inspections" in Hong Kong. The factory owners would take the visitors on the tour of the factory. The workers were informed on how to behave "or else". And when the owners took the visitor the long-way-round the factory, the workers quickly sneaked from one building to the next, to make the factory look busy and successful.

So easy to manage an inspection esp. by American FLA where they cannot speak to workers due to language barriers and can only naiively "look" at the factory and working conditions.
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#4
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
Maybe FLA knows more, but I have to call BS on the theory of rural guy going to factories and getting shocked by the work there. I'm from India, and I'm sure a Chinese guy can correct me, but the mechanism of urbanization is similar between our two countries. Life in rural parts of our country is extremely difficult. Farm mechanization is low, and so there's lot of manual labour, and rural life in our two countries is nightmarish. Apart from working your ass out in the field, you have the slog it out in the village market to get the best prices for your produce, so you could make ends meet. In contrast, being pulled out of the farms and being put into a factory, especially an assembly line where you can sit, and where the factory gives you your lunch, is a dream. Hell, even a stereotypical textile sweatshop is much better than farm life.

So there must be factors other than intensity of labour behind worker suicides.
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#5
Frederik S
Staff
It is good compared to a garment factory... lol...

Corporate work environment green washing haha!
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#6
NC37
Oh heres a good idea...inspectors give time and dates for their arrival so management can sweep problems under the rug. Yeah, really win there.

Just an Apple publicity stunt to wave the "everything is ok" sign.

Really if this was a serious inspection, they wouldn't have disclosed it. Just surprise, show up, catch them with their pants down. Then accept bribes to keep it quiet ;D.
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#7
DannibusX
Hans Blix must have been the inspector.
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#8
Frederik S
Staff
I bet Apple paid all the works to just "Smile and wave"!
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#9
acerace
Pics or it didn't happen.
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#10
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
by: NC37
Oh heres a good idea...inspectors give time and dates for their arrival so management can sweep problems under the rug. Yeah, really win there.
Chinese government doesn't allow surprise inspections. All these corporations know what they're dealing with (won't admit it publically--see Nike and child labor) and frankly, they don't care so long as the products are completed and meet quality requirements. It is going to keep on happening until labor costs around the globe increase to the point where automation is undeniably cheaper.
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#11
xaira
hey remember some time ago when banks were hiring independent companies to rate securities...and that worked out so well...
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#12
pr0n Inspector
by: btarunr
Maybe FLA knows more, but I have to call BS on the theory of rural guy going to factories and getting shocked by the work there. I'm from India, and I'm sure a Chinese guy can correct me, but the mechanism of urbanization is similar between our two countries. Life in rural parts of our country is extremely difficult. Farm mechanization is low, and so there's lot of manual labour, and rural life in our two countries is nightmarish. Apart from working your ass out in the field, you have the slog it out in the village market to get the best prices for your produce, so you could make ends meet. In contrast, being pulled out of the farms and being put into a factory, especially an assembly line where you can sit, and where the factory gives you your lunch, is a dream. Hell, even a stereotypical textile sweatshop is much better than farm life.

So there must be factors other than intensity of labour behind worker suicides.
You go to a Foxconn or similar factory and you work your asses off. You live, eat, work and poop all in their facilities. You have practically no social life. You have no one close to you to talk to. Then you realize that it's a dead-end job and think you're stuck in this forever or you got hooked up with some female co-worker then got dumped or something. With how superficial and hollow the modern Chinese culture is, it's not hard to see why someone would just kill himself.

But my speculation is pointless. The suicide rate at Foxconn is actually lower than national average. And, no one really cares. Everyone comes out and says "This is deplorable and inexcusable!" then go right back to living their unsustainable lifestyle. It's China right now and it will be Africa when most Chinese can enjoy the same unsustainable lifestyle.
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#13
Steevo
Here eat thos shiny apple mr and mrs inspector sir, it may be solid gold so watch your teeth, as we have no accidents here OK?
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#15
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: pr0n Inspector
You go to a Foxconn or similar factory and you work your asses off. You live, eat, work and poop all in their facilities. You have practically no social life. You have no one close to you to talk to. Then you realize that it's a dead-end job and think you're stuck in this forever or you got hooked up with some female co-worker then got dumped or something. With how superficial and hollow the modern Chinese culture is, it's not hard to see why someone would just kill himself.

But my speculation is pointless. The suicide rate at Foxconn is actually lower than national average. And, no one really cares. Everyone comes out and says "This is deplorable and inexcusable!" then go right back to living their unsustainable lifestyle. It's China right now and it will be Africa when most Chinese can enjoy the same unsustainable lifestyle.
I don't deny that Foxconn's facilities are bad, but I'm saying the backgrounds these workers come from (according to FSA, from rural China) are a LOT worse.
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#16
LDNL
by: btarunr
I don't deny that Foxconn's facilities are bad, but I'm saying the backgrounds these workers come from (according to FSA, from rural China) are a LOT worse.
So that must mean farmer suicide rates have to a LOT more!
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#17
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: LDNL
So that must mean farmer suicide rates have to a LOT more!
Well, the worker suicide rates do seem to be below national average. Apple's PR gets the spotlight when a Foxconn worker "commits suicide", and not when a Chinese peasant does.
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#18
Batou1986
First class ? LOL working conditions at your local Burger King must be off the charts then
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#19
ironwolf
When I was in the military, announced inspections were a total joke. Everything was cleaned up spic-'n-span and it turned into a dog-and-pony-show. It's the unannounced inspections that really matter, so you can see what's really going on.
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#20
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
by: DannibusX
Hans Blix must have been the inspector.
Probably...but the jokes on you as he is no longer exists. Unless the joke was that there was no inspection because hes dead and 8ft under.
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#22
15th Warlock
Completely off topic, I know, but has anyone else noticed the image used for this article is a photoshop? And not a good one either, look at the awkward way that worker is holding the iPad, and also notice how her thumb is touching one of the icons without starting that app, not to mention the fact that her thumb has an awfully different skin tone than the rest of her hand... Altough she could be using one of those funny finger latex covers, still the angle of her hands just looks wrong to be holding that iPad...

Just saying...
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#23
pr0n Inspector
by: btarunr
I don't deny that Foxconn's facilities are bad, but I'm saying the backgrounds these workers come from (according to FSA, from rural China) are a LOT worse.
You are right that it's likely that farm work is much harder on the body. What I meant was that these people couldn't handle the lonely and repetive life in the foxconn city. What they should've realize is that the job they are doing shouldn't be permanent. Work your asses off, send money home, save enough money, learn a trade or something and move on.
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#24
MT Alex
Well, we'll have to wait and see what The Fair Labor Association has to say about the factories, then. Perhaps more scrutiny will come when leaving out the U.
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#25
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: pr0n Inspector
You are right that it's likely that farm work is much harder on the body. What I meant was that these people couldn't handle the lonely and repetive life in the foxconn city.
And farm-life is worse. It's just as repetitive, and thanks to the lack of siblings or multiple children (one child rule), just as lonely. The bi-product of one child rule is a self-centric society. You have just one kid, and the last thing you want is for the kid to end up like you, so you do everything you can to send that kid to at least go work in a factory (away from the farm life).
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