Outsourcing

Working conditions in China: Apple doesn’t keep its promises

by Nolwenn Weiler

This article was originally published by Basta! in French. Translation: Jean Petit.

One year later, nothing has changed. Unpaid overtime, non-compliance with the most basic occupational safety rules, no possibility of setting up independent unions... In the Asian factories owned by Foxconn, the Taiwanese Apple subcontractor, labor law doesn’t exist. After a number of Chinese workers committed suicide, the awful working conditions on iPhone and iPad assembly lines became widely publicized, and Apple committed to improving the workers’ situation. By July 2013, everything was supposed to get back to normal.

Unfortunately, it seems that non-compliance with labor legislation and violations of workers’ rights and dignity are still rife in Apple’s supply chain. According an investigation by China Labor Watch - a New York-based NGO -, workers for Apple’s Chinese suppliers still work overtime unpaid, and no minimum wage has been established. Two thirds of the workers don’t earn enough money to satisfy their basic needs (housing, food, health). In terms of freedom of association, there is some progress ... because the starting point was so low! Unfortunately, most of the new union leaders are actually... part of the factories’ management teams.

The American think tank Economic Policy Institute, which monitors US firms’ employees’ working conditions, notes that between March 2012 - when the Fair Labor Association (another American NGO) first warned Apple about working conditions at Foxconn - and July 2013, Apple earned about 35 billion euros. « A small share of those profits would have been enough to fulfill Apple’s promises by last February », denounces the Institute. To compensate for unpaid overtime or set up a minimum wage, Apple also could count on its 147 billion dollars (110 billion euros) cash reserve. It’s all a question of priority.