‘Boycott’ Apple: Tech God Get Bums Rush?

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A major Apple backlash has begun following outcry over worker abuses in China.

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Foxxconn workers busy at work.

Influential media outlets including LA Times, CIO and Forbes have all criticised the darling of the tech world, Apple, who only last week reported blockbuster profits of $13.1bn – double last years figure – and is the most valuable (and one of the most powerful) techies in the world.

This makes the litany of abuses against workers by Apple’s third party suppliers, like Foxxconn’s (known locally as Hon Hai) overworking, dreadful pay and conditions, prision-like worker dorms and child labour, all the more maddening.

And that’s not mentioning worker safety, which at best is appalling, with a blast at Foxxconn’s Chengdu based plant which makes iPads killing three and injuring at least another 16 workers last year.

And workers at another Apple supplier, Wintek, were poisoned after coming in contact with a chemical used in the manufacturing of iPhones which left several workers with permanent nerve damage.

Foxconn, one of the major perpetrators, is the world’s largest maker of consumer electronics, and employs 800,000 workers worldwide, mostly in China.

AS CIO blogger Bill Snyder asks in a blog posting “Should We Boycott Apple for China’s Human Right Abuse?” yesterday, saying:

 “Is the moral price of spending our money on Apple products too high? I think it may be.”

The LA Times in a similar article entitled “Should we boycott Apple” branded the abuses as “appalling” while The Daily Beast’s Dan Lyons called the basic rights violations against Chinese workers as simply “barbaric”.

“But we go along with it happening in China, and have turned a blind eye to it, because we want our gadgets and we don’t want to pay fair prices for them,” he added.

And lets not forget the low, low production costs squeezed out of third party suppliers, many of whom work almost exclusively on Apple contracts which means high, high profits enjoyed back at HQ in Cupertino, making it the most profitable tech company going.

Apple can make as much as 60-70% profit margin on some devices, according to reports.

Some workers have even committed suicide in Apple’s Foxxconn plant due to the appalling conditions forcing suicide nets had to be placed around one factory premises last year, following a spate of attempted (and around 10 successful) suicides.

However, Apple boss Tim Cook denies Apple has turned a “blind eye” to the glaring obvious problem which has been reported on for some time now.

 

To avoid further PR backlash Apple even took the unusual step of publishing all its suppliers – all 156 of them – in Japan, China and South Korea, earlier this month.

However, an internal audit showed just 38% of its suppliers met Apple working standards, including a 60 hour maximum working week (max ten hours per day) and at least one day off a week. These suppliers will now have their working conditions monitored by an outside labour group.

Apple also believes detrimental child labour has been eliminated from its final assembly suppliers.

“We will continue regular audits and go even deeper into our supply chain to ensure that there are no underage workers at any Apple supplier,” it said.

Read Apple Reveal Suppliers In Bid To Improve Work Conditions Here

Apple’s Chief Cook denies intentional wrongdoing, saying “we will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues.”

“What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word.”

However, New York Times have previously quoted Apple sources who indicate they don’t care about how the work is executed – as long as it is done – super quick and cheap – something which cannot be achieved in US factories.

But it must be noted it’s not just Cupertino that are contracting third party suppliers to perform cheap labour at sweats shops.

They’re all at it….

Read HP, Apple & Dell Sweatshops A Sick Joke? Here

But what is also interesting is this: these workers infringements take place mostly in the very same country, China, where Apple has a cult following (cue near riots when new iPhone, iPad is released), which suggests a major disparity between the middle class consumers buying the i devices and the pitiful workers making them for a pittance wage.

 

And another vital point mentioned by several tech journalists – it is ultimately up to the consumer to boycott Apple if its feels strongly enough about the China situation.

And what better protest to Apple than ditching an iPhone or iPad for another more socially responsible brand?

But having pointed out this to several iPhone users in the past, it appears Asian sweat shops are accepted as a norm of 21 century economics, which is the most worrying thing of all.

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