Apple's Intolerable Working Conditions

In recent years, Apple has been accused of permitting intolerable working conditions for the creation of their products. Foxconn, one of Apple’s main suppliers, is the largest contract manufacturer of electronics in the world. Foxconn manufactures Apple products such as the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Within the last couple of years, there has been over ten suicides at Foxconn complexes, most of which occurred at the Shenzhen complex. These deaths have been attributed to intolerable working conditions.

Consequently, Apple has put together efforts to prevent further suicides. At the Shenzhen complex, large nets have been installed on the buildings. These nets are meant to catch suicidal employees who have jumped out of the complex’s windows. Other efforts to prevent suicides include pay raises and the availability of counseling.

Since the wave of Foxconn suicides, Apple has improved its process of upholding work safety standards at their manufacturing facilities. Apple has contended that they are very diligent in cutting ties with suppliers and contractors that operate with intolerable working conditions. Even though Apple claims to have improved its auditing process, it is still questionable as to whether or not their auditing procedures are thorough enough.

In the Apple Supplier Responsibility 2011 Progress Report, Apple did not mention any issues related to intolerable working conditions at the Shenzhen complex. Nor did Apple mention Foxconn’s association with poor working conditions at all. The report does come to reveal, however, that the majority of Apple’s suppliers do not comply with their Supplier Code of Conduct. In particular, there has been a significant increase in the use of underage labor among the suppliers. China Labor Watch, an organization based in New York, has reported that the working conditions at Apple’s suppliers in China are much more severe than what Apple has claimed. Essentially, there is enormous room for improvement in creating satisfactory working conditions at Apple’s manufacturing facilities.

Apple maintains that it strives to be a leader in the industry for eliminating intolerable working conditions. Still, unfortunate incidents have continued to occur at Apple manufacturing facilities. Recently, there was a deadly explosion at Foxconn’s Chengdu plant, a facility that manufactures the iPad. Three workers were killed and fifteen were injured in this explosion, supposedly triggered by combustible dust. Moreover, around fifty workers have been poisoned at a firm that manufactures touchscreens for Apple. Ultimately, Apple, as well as other technology companies, needs to realize that intolerable working conditions do not need to exist in order to reduce manufacturing costs and keep the price of American gadgets low. Work safety should be top priority.