For the first time ever, Apple has released a list of its 156 major suppliers, bringing the company in line with other US companies including Hewlett Packard, Intel and Nike who have released such lists in the past. Labor rights activists and journalists had been pushing for Apple to release such a list, in the hope that doing so might reveal whether Apple’s partners are treating their workers ethically. Activists are now hoping that Apple can be urged to improve conditions for workers in overseas factories.
Apple has also agreed to allow outside monitors to inspect its partners’ factories and has become the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA). Nike was the Washington-based FLA’s founding member in the 1990s, after reports about abuses, poor working conditions and low wages in its factories in Asia led to protests and boycotts.
Foxconn Resolves Dispute After Workers Threaten Suicide
Foxconn Technology , which is based in Taiwan, is Apple’s biggest supplier and also counts Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft among its clients. The company has come under international scrutiny not only because it produces the iPhone, the iPad, the Amazon Kindle and the Microsoft Xbox. In recent years, reports have emerged of at least 26 of Foxconn’s workers committing suicide due to abusive working conditions. In 2010, three workers died and seventy were injured in explosions at two iPad factories, one of which was owned by Foxconn.
Thanks to pressure from Apple, Foxconn has raised wages for some of its workers in 2010 and employed psychiatrists to counsel people. But workers have continued to protest and with good reason. On January 2, 150 of 32,000 employees at a Foxconn factory in Wuhan in central China demonstrated about being moved to a new production line. The New York Times reports that some workers also said they were angry about being “forced to move” to Wuhan, from Foxconn’s biggest campus in Shenzhen in southern China; while they had been promised a salary of $450 a month, they have been receiving less, plus working conditions in Wuhan were more difficult. More than 100 of the workers had threatened to commit suicide and remained on the roof of a three-story building on the Foxconn campus for eight hours.
As of Thursday, Foxconn announced that it had “successfully and peacefully” resolved the pay dispute. Details of the agreement have not been released and 45 workers have resigned. In a statement, Foxconn said that “The welfare of our employees is our top priority, and we are committed to ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and that their rights are fully protected.”
Now that Apple has joined the FLA and indicated that it will open its partners’ factories to outside monitors, it remains to be seen if Foxconn will stand by its claims. Anyone who has an iPhone, iPad, Xbox, Kindle or other device with Foxconn-manufactured parts needs to remind Apple that it needs to stick to its new policies about ensuring workers’ rights and workers safety too.
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