Apple Allows Rare Look Inside Chinese Factories

Posted February 22nd, 2012 at 2:20 am (UTC-5)
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Technology giant Apple has offered a rare look inside massive Chinese factories where some of the world’s most popular electronic products are made, following news reports that workers there face harsh labor conditions.

ABC’s Nightline program visited the Chengdu facilities of Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that assembles most of Apple’s products. Several reports last month suggested workers at the plant were subject to low pay, crowded group living spaces and sometimes deadly work environments.

The report broadcast Tuesday followed inspectors of the Fair Labor Association. Apple has allowed the non-profit labor group unprecedented access to monitor conditions at the facility following the reports, which threaten to become the biggest blemish in recent years to the world’s most valuable technology company.

The program showed thousands of young workers manually assembling iPhones, iPads and iPods, many of whom had never before seen – and could not afford – the finished products. Most of the workers at the facility earn just over $2 an hour and work more than 60 hours each week, without getting paid overtime.

The Fair Labor Association says it will soon release the results of its audit of Foxconn facilities. FLA President Auret Van Heerden says the report will help end speculation about what exactly Chinese workers there are facing.

“It’s not the intensity and the burn-out and the high pressure cooker environment that you have in a garment factory. This is very different … It’s more of a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps.”

A series of highly publicized suicides last year called attention to working conditions at Foxconn facilities, which employs about 1 million people in China. In response, Foxconn installed suicide nets outside factory dormitories, implemented a counseling program, and raised wages by as much as 66 percent.

Van Heerden said Apple’s decision to join the FLA shows that it is serious about improving standards at its contract manufacturing plants.

“The FLA system is very tough. It involves unannounced assessments, it involves complete access, it involves public reporting, and most of the other monitoring systems … don’t have anything like those requirements.”

Both Foxconn and Apple have denied that unfair labor conditions exist at the facilities.