Got your I-Pad yet?
Have you considered how those things are made, and by whom? Of course, Apple doesn’t actually employ people to make gadgets. Apple is a design, R&D, and marketing & retail company. The production of the gadgets is farmed out to contractors around the world, who hire workers to fill the factories where Apple’s products are made. Apple claims to pay close attention to how workers are treated in those factories, requiring the suppliers to comply with a code of conduct, for example, and claiming that it carefully monitors compliance with the code.
One of Apple’s major suppliers is called Foxconn, which is the largest electronics manufacturer in the world that operates a huge factory (some 300,000 workers!) in Longhua, China. Reports by Chinese NGOs and the UK Guardian newspaper allege that workers in Chinese factories making I-Pads and I-Phones have been pushed so hard to meet Apple’s demands or new products that they are exhausted, getting injured, and committing suicide. The Maquila Solidarity Network in Toronto reports the following:
As consumers rush to get their hands on an iPad, Apple Inc.’s latest gadget, which officially hit Canadian stores today, Asian civil society organizations are protesting Foxconn … for its deplorable labour practices which have been linked to 12 worker suicides at one of its Chinese plants this year alone.
The workers have complained of extremely low wages, excessive overtime, extreme productivity targets and a particularly harsh and isolating management system.
The reports claim that the factory owners have put up netting to catch jumping workers and has begun requiring employees to sign “no suicide” terms in their employment contracts! You know you have an HRM problem when you think you need a clause like that, huh, employers?
The Apple supplier code has a clause on working hours. It says:
Except in emergency or unusual situations, a workweek shall be restricted to 60 hours, including overtime, and workers shall take at least one day off every seven-days. All overtime shall be voluntary.
Hmm. Do you think that “unusual situation” includes you-had-better-get-us-2 million-i-pads-by June 1-because-the-market-is-going-crazy-for-our-new-product?
If this story gets picked up by media, and Apple is embarrassed by it, what do you think that Apple should do in response?
Would your decision whether to buy an Apple product by influenced by stories like this?
A Chinese organization called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour has started a petition and is calling for a boycott in June of products made by Foxconn. If you want to take any action, check out that petition and also the Maquila Solidarity Network site linked above.
UPDATE: Foxconn announces 30% wage increase and more counsellors in response to concerns raised about stress and depression levels in its Chinese factory that makes I-pads, among other gadgets.