updated 01:30 am EST, Thu February 23, 2012
Apple, Foxconn clarify, correct minor points
ABC's recent Nightline story that showed exactly how Apple's iOS devices are put together in factories in China revealed little that was unknown to tech-savvy viewers, and was generally perceived as even-handed and non-sensationalistic in showing the plusses and minuses for workers. The network has since, however, appended some comments from Apple, Foxconn and the Fair Labor Association on minor points in the report.
The comments from all three entities would appear to imply that each took no major issues with the report overall, and that it was seen by those companies as a fair portrayal. Reporter Bob Weir took pains to remind viewers that Apple is not Foxconn's sole client, and that for many workers, what looks like low-paid and tedious factor work to most Western viewers is seen a great opportunity both for the workers and China generally by people living there . For many of Foxconn's rural-community-based workers, the alternative is back-breaking sustenance farming that is even less rewarding than the factory jobs.
Apple wrote in to debunk a claim by worker Zhou Xiau Ying that she smoothes (or "deburrs") the cut-out Apple carving on the back plate of an iPad some 6,000 times per day by pointing out that she likely was referring to the total number of de-burring operations done over the course of two shifts (at 12 hours per shift) rather than the number she does in her normal shift. Apple said the error was probably a result of mistranslation of Weir's original question, which was based on a "per day" basis.
Foxconn took the opportunity to clarify the claim that starting wages at the plants are excessively low. It said that 75 percent of its workforce earns at least $2.18 per hour (13.75RMB), well above the $1.78 per hour the report said. Overtime is paid at time-and-a-half on weekdays, and double-time on weekends. The $1.78 per hour rate is paid to new employees on probation rather than the majority of the workforce, the company said, and that the $2.18 per hour normal rate plus some overtime (either 47 hours per month at the weekend rate or 63 hours at the weekday rate) would be enough to get a typical worker to the $555 (3,500RMB) per month rate where they would be taxed on their wages. Without overtime, a worker could expect to make $349 per month.
Also commenting on the report was the Fair Labor Association. President and CEO Auret van Heerden clarified her own quote about the length of time it took the FLA to convince Apple to join the labor association. In the original report, she called the length of time between contact and Apple's joining the group "a five-year conversation," but in her new comment noted that this included a period of just over a year when the two organizations were not talking. A proposal of a small pilot project in 2009 re-ignited the talks, and following a second test project Apple became the first tech company to join FLA.
A commenter on the post at ABCNews.com discussed the relative well-being of the workers. The Nightline report pointed out that workers pay for meals (which cost around 70 cents US each) and their dorm-style lodging (which costs around $17.50 US per month), and the commenter noted that three days' worth of work paid for a worker's entire basic living expenses for the entire month, allowing them to save or send money back home to their families. [Photo via Almin Karamehmedovic/ABC News ]