An incredible amount of praise was showered on Apple’s founder on the event of his birth anniversary – this is going to happen every year.
The blogosphere and social media were buzzing with cliches of remembrance and reminding readers of Jobs’ “immortal” quotes.
Glitzy Gadgets - At the Cost of Cruelty
For those eulogizing Jobs, and flaunting gleaming Apple logos, it’s important not to ignore the plight of the exploited workers at Foxconn, a top supplier for Apple products. Apple has been in the spotlight for this cruelty for quite a while, and there are no clear signs of abatement in the reported abuses.
Close inspection of its Chinese plants has begun, but it is not known how much change this is going to bring to the grim situation, and how soon.
Apple has been shrewd at taking advantage of labor practices in China, in spite of requiring that suppliers provide "safe working conditions" and "treat workers with dignity and respect". This is not surprising for a company that has been focused on maximizing profits by minimizing labor costs.
Here are some points to think over, the next time we pick up an iPad or iPhone:
- Factory workers in Apple’s assembly lines sit on backless chairs for long stretches, are made to perform push-ups as punishments and are often exposed to dangerous chemicals during work tasks.
- Foxconn has always insisted it never mistreats its employees, but the chairman was left red-faced after several workers took their own lives in 2010, and made a public apology.
- Once finished with the day, factory workers have to head straight to packed dormitories, and return only to be welcomed by another miserable day.
Steve Jobs didn’t notice a problem with the manner in which quick product delivery was being ensured. This is what he had to comment: "I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory."
Foxconn actually had a quick fix to one of their serious problems – they installed nets around the factory building to break the fall of someone jumping off!
On the Road to Change?
The new CEO Tim Cook has made some promises to eradicate abuses, and his mighty company’s admission to the Fair Labor Association and the subsequent commencement of inspections are apparently positive steps.
Is Apple on the road to change, when it comes to getting its suppliers comply with established human rights norms?