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China Labor Union Slams Apple for Closing their Eyes to Real Ongoing Labor Problems at Chinese Plants & More

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In December we posted a report titled "The BBC Report about Apple is motivated by Politics and Unions." The report showed that while the BBC thought that their documentary about Apple's Broken Promises was an original one, we made it clear that we knew that it was really a re-hashed China Labor Watch (CLW) report put to video.

 

The CLW are relentless and obsessed with slamming Apple at every turn. Last week they published yet another report against Apple titled: "Analyzing Labor Conditions of Pegatron and Foxconn: Apple's Low-Cost Reality."

 

The point they want to make is that Apple purposely jumps from one manufacturer to another looking for the lowest price to make a product which translates to lower wages that further pushes manufacturers to demand more overtime from their workers to get the job done at a profit. Apple knows full well that the companies won't comply with Apple's regulations and rules on paper so that they can make a profit, and it's a vicious cycle. 

 

China Labor Watch published their new report in China on February 11, 2015. Within 24 hours, Apple released their "Supplier Responsibility Progress Report 2015." Does anyone really think that it was a coincidence on Apple's part to drown out the CLW report published on the same day?

 

China Labor Watch (CLW) published a new report that investigates labor costs and conditions at two major Apple supplier manufacturers, Pegatron (Shanghai) and Foxconn (Longhua).

 

The report claims that "Ever since Foxconn's labor costs increased in 2010, Apple has been more greatly engaging lower cost suppliers like Pegatron, which gain their competitive edge through lower labor cost, leading to poorer labor conditions.

 

Although Apple claims they have strict internal auditing of supplier labor conditions, the CLW investigation and analysis found that labor conditions at major suppliers are still substandard. Workers still do overtime far in excess of even Apple's own standard. Under this competition structure, suppliers that improve labor conditions are at a disadvantage. Apple is the major beneficiary of this supply chain structure."

 

The report covers these four key areas, as follows:

 

1. Apple consistently suppresses labor costs by shifting production to cheaper manufacturers

 

2. Apple is unable to effectively monitor its supply chain; Pegatron still has excessive working hours

 

3. It is media attention that has improved labor conditions, not Apple's self-monitoring

 

4. Apple must take more responsibility for improving labor conditions

 

Apple's new report shows that they have done more audits over the last two years than at any other time in history and on paper have great supply chain rules. But Apple's CEO Tim Cook recently learned that automation isn't the same thing as human curation when it comes to music streaming. Perhaps Apple has to be more directly engaged with "surprise" plant visits from Apple's top executives instead of those hired locally to do the audits so as to ensure that the job labor conditions get done right or that their supplier guides are actually followed.

 

How can Apple keep putting out audit results and new rules and still come under fire for the same old complaints that don't seem to ever get addressed. If overtime is an ongoing violation and Apple continues to publish nice little charts saying the opposite, there seems to be a real problem here. Do we need a UN committee to step in to find out the truth? Someone is clearly lying here and it would be great to finally know which party it is. With both sides slugging it out in the press or the labor union making a questionable documentary just isn't helping any of us know what's really happening.

 

But in some cases we can say: let's be real. We all saw the video from the BBC documentary that showed us Apple's mandatory educational classes for workers are exercised in a way that are a total joke. So what are the penalties for plant violations? I've never read about that. Will a supplier lose a contract over plant violations? I've never read about a plant losing a contract over Apple's supplier responsibility guidelines.

 

In the big picture, I know that Apple shareholders don't really care about how Apple's products are made or the conditions of the plant workers. It's about a return on the dollar. The press wants to talk about flying cars and new products that will take Apple to new profit highs and look at drone videos flying over the new massive Apple headquarters. We've reported on those topics as well.

 

Yet sometimes you have to give the other side a fair break and provide them with some press that could be constructive in pushing for the rights of Chinese laborers who don't all smile nicely for Apple's cameras or get on the cover of Apple's supplier guide.

 

So while I'm not a fan of CLW or unions that scream foul play at every turn and have said so loudly over time, I still think the CLW plays an important role in pushing Apple in the press in the hopes that more will get done that really benefits workers instead of just window dressing.

 

You could read more about the CLW report here and here and make your own judgements.

 

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