On Wednesday May 25, Apple Inc. passed Microsoft Corporation in market capitalization (the number shares times the shares price) to become the most valuable technology company in the world.
Even with this great financial success, Apple has been put under scrutiny for labor issues in its overseas suppliers’ factories.Â
On Tuesday May 25, the Foxconn Technology Group, one of Apple’s major manufacturers in China, had its tenth employee suicide in the past year, all from jumping off buildings.Â
There have also been a few dozen other failed suicide attempts. All the suicides have been by workers between the age of 18 and 24.Â
“Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility wherever Apple products are made, a spokesperson from Apple said.
In the 2010 Supplier Responsibility Report Apple published, it audited 102 facilities to see if they complied with its Supplier Code of Conduct.Â
The Code of Conduct includes limiting working hours to 60 hours per week (including overtime), requiring minimum wage and benefits consistent with local laws, and clean and safe dormitories with adequate heat, ventilation, personal space, and entry and exit privileges.
Apple found that only 72 percent complied within the Labor and Human Rights category and 76 percent in the Health and Safety category.Â
The conditions at the Faxconn factory have been described by labor activists in China as sweatshop-like, with repetitive dull work. They also allow the workers to work as much overtime as they want, even past the legal limit.
This negative atmosphere has led many to kill themselves, leaving notes to their family that they are sorry they could not have become something more.Â
Foxconn has also shown concern with the high number of suicides. They said they plan on putting up nets around many of the buildings to stop them.Â
Apple says it is talking with the violators and that all the issues are “discussed and resolved.
If the facility refuses to comply, Apple says it will end business with them, but this has not happened yet.
One of the suicides from last June was because of a lost iPhone prototype leaked to the public.Â
The security guards at Foxconn harassed and abused the worker who lost one iPhone, before he killed himself. Apple did respond to this by requiring that its suppliers “must treat workers with respect and dignity.
This is not the first time that Apple and its manufactures have been in the news for major labor issues in the past year.
The beginning of 2010 marked a poor start for Apple.Â
One East China LCD plant went on strike because they had to use a banned, toxic cleaner to clean the Apple iPads screens. The use of the cleaner was immediately stopped and the manager who suggested it was fired.
A few weeks later Apple revealed that at one plant there where workers as young as 15 year old, below the local minimum working age of 16.Â
These are only two of the issues Apple has recently had, and it appears they try to deal with them on a case-by-case situation, only when incidents receives widespread media attention.
Apple has many issues with labor violation at their supplier’s factories because many of them are located in China, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Czech Republic; countries with limited and for the most part unenforced labor laws.
If Apple were to stop its contracts with Supplier Code of Conduct violators, they would have to find facilities in country’s with stricter laws.
This situation would cost Apple more money for the parts, ultimately cutting into their profit. A measly $3.07 billion in the first three months of 2010.]]>