Apple assembly plant conditions still harsh in China-activists

Thu May 31, 2012 12:11pm EDT
 
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By Lee Chyen Yee and James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Working conditions at Foxconn's gargantuan Chinese factories that assemble Apple Inc's slick gadgets have barely improved despite pledges this year to halt labor violations, workers' rights activists and employees said on Thursday.

Foxconn Technology Group, Apple's main global contract manufacturer run by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou and employing 1.2 million workers in China, has come under fire in recent years for running massive "sweatshops" to mass produce high-end iPads and iPhones.

Last month, Gou defended his firm's industrial workshops that have helped outmuscle rivals through vast economies of scale and cost savings that have made it the world's largest contract manufacturer.

"What's wrong with sweatshops?" Gou told Chinese workers visiting Taiwan in late April. "We toil hard with blood and sweat, so long as we don't break any laws. I believe in reaping what you sow," he added in videoclip posted on YouTube. (here)

Following a spate of critical reports detailing unsafe factory practices at Foxconn plants that have triggered worker deaths and suicides, Apple this year allowed the U.S.-based Fair Labor Association (FLA) to conduct a high-profile and extensive probe of Foxconn's China factories.

The report, released in March and based on 35,000 worker interviews, unearthed labor violations including extreme work hours and unpaid overtime. As a result, Apple and Foxconn pledged major improvements including cutting workloads, improving safety protocols and upgrading workers' housing and quality of life.

A fresh report released on Thursday by labor watchdog Student & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), based on visits to several Foxconn factories and 170 worker interviews, found rights violations "remain the norm" including high production targets, inhumane treatment and signs of overall salary cuts.

"The frontline management continue to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers," it said.   Continued...

 
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook (L) visits the iPhone production line at the newly built Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park in Zhengzhou, Henan province in this March 28, 2012 handout photo. REUTERS/Apple/Handout