Global demand for iPhones and iPads is generating substandard working conditions for electronics workers in China. This is the main conclusion of a report published by the Hong Kong-based labour rights organisation, Sacom, according to GoodElectronics.
This is also the core message of the International Action Day on Apple initiated by makeITfair and GoodElectronics on 7 May 2011. Civil society organisations, activists and consumers worldwide are calling upon Apple – world leader in electronic devices – to make its supply chain fair and transparent.
It’s time to bite into a fair Apple. A call for sustainable IT
What is going wrong?
The report by Sacom published on 6 May describes continuing employment and labour issues at Foxconn’s factories in Shenzhen, Chengdu and Chongqing (China). Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple. The Foxconn production site in Chengdu is fully fitted out for the production of iPads and iPhones. Sacom points at excessive and unpaid overtime work, misleading job advertisements wage miscalculations and wage increases that are levelled out with increased productivity.
In 2010, 19 young Foxconn workers attempted suicide, of which 16 died. In a series of publications and statements, Sacom argued there is a clear link between the harsh management style, the work pressure and the general working conditions at Foxconn and the desperate acts of the stressed workers. Sacom concludes that not much has changed since. At one of Apples’ touch screen production sites known as Wintek’s factories in China, producing Apple’s touch screens for iPads and iPhones, 137 poisoned workers are still waiting for additional compensation. They are calling upon Apple to support them in their struggle to get adequate compensation from Apple for check-ups and hospital treatment.
“Chinese workers in the electronics industry lack opportunities to organise themselves, express their grievances or negotiate wages,” says Debby Chan, author of the Sacom report. “We want to make these workers’ voices heard in the world and at Apple’s headquarters, to help them get a fair share of the pie.”
Leontien Aarnoudse of makeITfair adds, “While Apple reports a net profit of US$5.99bn for the first quarter this year, workers in its supply chain work excessive overtime for a salary they can hardly live on.”
Apple should improve its purchasing practices by introducing fair unit prices and well-planned lead times allowing its suppliers to pay their workers a living wage. Apple should foster communication between workers and management at Apple suppliers and engage with (local) labour rights organisations to make sure that working conditions improve. Besides, Apple should provide consumers transparency and inform them about the steps they take to make improvements.
International Action Day
The International Action Day focuses on Apple as an innovative and money-making world leader in coveted electronics devices. makeITfair and GoodElectronics are mobilising consumers, youth organisations and other civil society organisations to call upon Apple to also show leadership in improving working conditions throughout its supply chain, in particular in China.
Across European cities, activists will be distributing fair chunks of the pie by unevenly cutting fair home-made apple pie slices and handing them out to the public, demonstrating the injustices faced by Chinese workers. Other locations, including Mexico and Taiwan are hosting action day protests outside electronics factories. They are also raising workers’ awareness of their rights, as well as letting Apple know that workers are aware they are being treated unfairly.