News / USA

Analysts Question Apple Labor Audit at Foxconn Factories

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook (L) visits the iPhone production line at the newly built Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, March 28, 2012 handout photo.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook (L) visits the iPhone production line at the newly built Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, March 28, 2012 handout photo.
Ivan Broadhead
HONG KONG —  An audit shows working conditions have improved at Chinese factories that make Apple electronic devices. But critics said more work is still needed before the plants meet standards set by Chinese law.

The Fair Labor Association commended Apple and its principal manufacturing contractor, Foxconn, for improving factory safety and moving to reduce maximum working hours at three plants in China that employ over 150,000 people.
 
Apple was the first electronics firm to join the FLA after the company’s reputation was bruised by a wave of worker suicides at Foxconn plants starting in 2010, and a fatal factory explosion last year.
 
Anita Chan of the Center for Social and Cultural Change in China Investment at the Sydney University of Technology, acknowledged progress. However she questioned the credibility of the report, given that the FLA is funded by its members, including Apple.
 
“The history of auditing, this voluntary-code rhetoric, has totally failed," she said. "In 2007 a trade union was set up inside Foxconn, but the suicides are evidence things did not change. There is lots of media attention paid to certain violations for a couple of months, then things return to normal.”
 
The audit demands Foxconn make 360 improvements to its factories before July 2013. A majority have been implemented, including ergonomic breaks to prevent repetitive strain injuries among staff, and reform of the internship program to end student overtime.
 
A majority of Foxconn’s one million employees in China are rural migrants, who move to the cities to earn as much money in as short a time as possible.
 
Ironically, many of these workers might leave the company for less scrupulous employers once Foxconn conforms to laws limiting the working week to 40 hours from the current 60.  
 
Earl Brown of the U.S. Solidarity Center is a veteran labor lawyer who testified to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China last month. He had concerns about the audit’s methodology and said staff must feel secure expressing their views to management.
 
“Workers add an important informational component to the compliance picture," said Brown. "When you have the prospect of Foxconn lining up its employees, giving them iPads and telling them to answer 50 questions from an outside auditing agency, employees fear the answers can be traced to them - if they answer negatively they will be fired. That is the fundamental flaw.”

Brown said China has made considerable progress in labor policy, even leading the U.S. in areas including worker maternity rights. But with growth slowing in China, worker rights could erode rather than improve as employers seek to maintain their profit margins.

Beijing's social dilemma

Beijing’s concern about the link between worker unrest and social instability, driving increasingly progressive reforms to protect the nation’s workforce, said Mike Lee, China spokesperson for Social Accountability International.
 
In the southern city of Shenzhen, for instance, a pilot project administered by the country’s only legally recognized union, the AFCTU, was recently established in which workers can elect their own representatives.  

“The new generation of workers, from the 1980s, 1990s, is very independent. [They] are more empowered but communications [with employers] are worse. That could be a real problem. Expect more strikes,” said Lee.  

Labor strikes unlikely
 
Although strikes are already increasingly common in China as workers better understand their rights and seek to protect them, neither Lee nor Chan see labor-related protests evolving into broader expressions of discontent at China’s political leadership.

“Generally, this has not been the case with strikes," said Chan. "The anger is directed at the employers. The workers actually petition the government for help.”
 
Labor costs mean China is becoming increasingly expensive for Foxconn, which has more than a million staff in the country on its payroll.
 
As the iPhone 5 moves towards production, the company is looking for cheaper manufacturing bases. In July, Indonesia’s industry minister announced the Taiwanese giant would invest $10 billion to build a plant on the main island of Java.
 
Despite Indonesia being the largest economy in southeast Asia, the country’s workers enjoy lower salaries than their Chinese counterparts, and fewer protections in the workplace.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid