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Chinese factory conditions tarnish Apple's image

updated 10:10 pm EDT, Tue July 14, 2009

Chinese factory conditions

Poor factory conditions in a number of Chinese manufacturing facilities, including those that make the iPhone and iPods, may be reflecting poorly on Apple, according to a Bloomberg report. Despite new laws designed to protect the workers, many of the employers are ignoring or circumventing the regulations.

Apple has continued to monitor factory conditions, while doubling the number of audited locations from last year. Of the 83 audited factories, 45 were found to violate standards for proper overtime pay. More than one in four also provided workers with less than the minimum wage.

The iPhone maker was blasted earlier this year by workers at Wintek, a manufacturer with facilities in Taiwan and China. Although Apple has publicly disclosed its ethics standards, the employees accused the company of leaving them unenforced and allowing Wintek to cut salaries, neglect safety issues, fire hundreds of workers without warning and even terminate several for participating in a strike.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling claims the company has trained hundreds of its employees to monitor compliance, while 27,000 supplier employees and managers were allegedly provided with details regarding worker rights and social responsibilities.

A number of analysts point out that pushing ethics forward is particularly difficult during the ongoing economic recession, although many do not place the blame solely on the suppliers. "The brand-name companies are not putting more money on the table to make sure that suppliers have incentive to obey labor laws," said Bama Athreya, executive director of the International Labor Rights Fund. "In fact, every year they come back and say, 'Do it for less.'"

The Chinese government has also been accused of allowing the companies to ignore certain rules for an indefinite period of time. The country's Minister of Human Resources and Social Security, Yin Weimin, late last year provided flexibility for local authorities to temporarily delay the implementation of new standards to protect against job cuts.

U.S. State Department spokesman Andrew Laine acknowledged the concerns involving changes to China's labor laws, although the domestic regulators also want to avoid the financial crisis from being "used as a pretext to weaken labor rights or other human rights."

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang admitted that his country is still "lagging behind" in providing workers with benefits, but he also blamed the U.S. for contributing to the continuing problems. "I would like to remind you to think, which country initiated this financial crisis? If you make mistakes, at least stop pointing fingers at others."

by MacNN Staff





  1. Constable Odo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    How does Apple have

    control over factories in China? It's a different country and they set their own rules.

  1. nowwhatareyoulookingat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    why blame apple?

    This isn't Apple specific, nor are Apple's subcontracts the worst offenders.

    This is just a stupid article to get more hits by linking "Apple" with random issue of the day.

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple could do better

    I don't believe Apple is doing that badly here, but they're certainly not perfect, and could definitely do better. It's an entrenched system, and it's hard to get accountability in China (government officials with their hands in the till can pretty much control the local factory managers.

    Still, Apple can take its business away from factories and managers who don't comply with the labor laws. If they do that publicly a few times, the factories will probably improve thieir conditions. We don't know what Apple is doing behind the scenes (maybe they're doing a lot), but if they made more of a public showing about labor conditions it might help the workers (and other companies might follow suit).

    Letting Chinese factories operate in secret will never help, as the "melamine in baby formula" scandal proved.

  1. 1golfdoc

    Joined: Dec 1969



    i would gladly pay more $ for apple products if we manufactured here in the u.s. not that our country couldn't use the extra jobs. how about we make it more friendly to do business here.

  1. tortenteufel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    poor factory conditions ?

    it seems to me that all of the conditions are poor in China....

  1. anly

    Joined: Dec 1969


    its business~

    This is not a China problem, but a business decision made by the sub-contractors that makes the ipods and iphones for Apple. bottom line is that they provide Apple with quality products at a low price, to ensure their profit margins...

  1. Eriamjh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Greed... what drives them. It's COMMUNIST China! What does one expect?

    "Work hard today or look for a job tomorrow" is a common banner at a Chinese factory.

    China needs to organize its employees, demand more wages, and send jobs back to the USA.

  1. ClevelandAdv

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Are you kidding?

    You really expect that the Chinese government is looking out for workers? This is the same rights-suppressing sudo-communists that roll their own with tanks whenever it suits them. This is the same group that publicly criticizes Kim Jong Il, while privately applauding his taunts of the US and Japan.

    China is looking out for the long-term expansion of Chinese power at the cost of it's people.

  1. George3

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Greed drives America too

    Bring the jobs back to the U.S. where sub-contractors can make employees do the work of three people, have poor working conditions and no health insurance.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: greed what drives them. It's COMMUNIST China! What does one expect?

    Yes, because, in America, no one runs sweatshops or cuts corners or dumps toxic waste, or abuses employees and their rights. There's no greed in America, that's for sure. It's a China thing.

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