According to the Hong Kong based labor activist group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), the working conditions at Apple supplier Foxconn are still poor, and violations of worker rights “remain the norm”.
The report contradicts numerous statements by Foxconn management and Apple that conditions were improving, although it supports the Fair Labor Association’s March audit, which found “significant issues” in Foxconn’s Apple factories.
Foxconn and other Asian electronics firms have been criticized in general for many years, but new attention began to be paid early this year after a “This American Life” story based on monologist and Apple critic Mike Daisey’s “trips to the factories and the poor conditions he claimed to have witnessed there.” It was later revealed that Daisey fabricated much of his information and sources.
Foxconn’s management has only fanned the flames of criticism with what has been described as insensitive (or possibly mistranslated) comments. In January, company chairman Terry Gou reportedly called his 1 million-plus workforce “animals,” and asked the Taipei zookeeper to give tips to his management team on how to control them.
SACOM’s report says that, despite public pledges to the contrary, Foxconn management has done little to improve working conditions. “The frontline management continue to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers,” the report stated. “Apple and Foxconn have not turned over a new leaf.”
SACOM says the overtime for workers at Foxconn has been cut, even though base pay has been increased, so overall salaries are down. They say some workers also had higher production targets and had to work unpaid overtime after pay hikes.
Tim Worstall, writing for Forbes, has a different view of the situation. He says, “I’m afraid that I coming to an unfortunate conclusion about some of these people protesting about the wages and working conditions at Foxconn where Apple‘s kit is made. They don’t seem to have much understanding of the world that they inhabit.”
He continues, “Yes, I am aware that working conditions there aren’t great and that wages, by your and my standards, are low. But that’s what being a poor person in a poor country means. Working hard at a bad job for little money. All of which is well known and so I really do find it terribly difficult to understand what SACOM are on about. Maybe the bright students are studying and the others are running SACOM?”