back to article Apple CEO defends fixes to suppliers' working conditions

CEO Tim Cook wants you to know – really wants you to know – that despite what you may have heard, Apple takes working conditions at its Asian contract manufacturers quite seriously and is working to improve them. "No one in our industry is doing more to improving working conditions than Apple," Cook told investors and analysts …

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  1. James O'Brien
    Joke

    they could

    Maybe, just a suggestion here, file more lawsuits to share the wealth with the lawyers? I mean who's going to think of them when they are down on their luck and are forced to drive a ferrari instead of the bugatti veyron to work? Just a suggestion.

  2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't fix what isn't broken

    How can they fix working conditions if they're already perfectly fine, which is what they said when workers started killing themselves?

    To fix something is an acknowledgement it was broken, which means they chose to use those factories knowing the human cost of cheap manufacture, which means their consumers don't care.

    This goes way beyond Apple. At the moment it's the norm to create a company in the west and then outsource the labour to cheap workers living in third world conditions. Common sense tells you the only reason a warm coat costs £8 from a certain UK clothes retailer, despite being shipped from the other side of the world, is because it was made in sweat shops. Everyone buying one knows that deep down, and what it all means to the people working there. Yes, you can argue that working in a sweat shop is better than not working at all, but that's to moral high ground what standing on a chair in a Tsunami is.

    Centuries ago, it must have seemed just as much the norm to keep slaves and have them work your plantation, and we all know what the legacy of that is. Back then, people probably also said that it's better for these people to be slaves and get fed than have nothing at all and starve, and to suggest that one day their descendants would hold a grudge over the matter, causing riots and deep social problems, would sound laughable.

    Is it really unlikely that in another few hundred years, far-eastern people with a much higher standard of living will collectively hold a grudge against the west for what it did to their ancestors? We live in cities with racial divides and the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Is it hard to imagine the potential for a situation like this but on a global/regional level existing one day?

    If you ever feel that 21st century western countries are picking up the tab for the industrial revolution, what's the tab likely to be for consumerism when it the charlady of time brings it to us at the end of the night?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      @AC "horrible work conditions"

      The truth is that Chinese workers are much better off in what you call "sweatshops" than they have been as rural subsistence farmers on slightly more than a beach towel of land (think of one or two hectares).

      When you come from just a little above starvation, just earning 6 dollars a day is much, much better.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Johnny Foreigner

        "The truth is that Chinese workers are much better off in what you call "sweatshops" than they have been as rural subsistence farmers on slightly more than a beach towel of land"

        You're only repeating the obvious and flawed argument I already gave in my post. It doesn't matter if these Chinese workers are better off or not. History will simply record how the west exploited them whilst they lived in terrible conditions, just as it has with slavery.

        And you're treating 'better' like it's a benchmark test. Somehow I doubt you yourself would be happy to live the lifestyle you're describing as "much better off". If you were dropped into China to live the rest of your life that way, you'd probably top yourself too.

        The fact that European countries went to Africa and found an already established slavery market of Africans selling Africans to Africans, and then simply jumped on the bandwagon - or that slavery in Africa and the middle east still goes on is neither here nor there. It isn't a logical argument that can be won by illustrating semantics. The bottom line is that slavery helped make the industrial revolution economically viable, and the legacy of that is what's to blame for so many problems.

        It's happening again, it's just that people can't see it. One day, Chinese people won't care whether their ancestors were better off in sweat shops or whether it was Chinese factories offering their cheap labour. All they'll know is that the west enjoyed plasma TVs, broadband, laptops, iPads and cheap clothes whilst their poor ancestors who made them had none of that, died worn out at a relatively young age, or even committed suicide because of the stress of it. Try telling the families of those men that they're better off that way.

        1. Arctic fox
          Thumb Up

          @AC 15th Feb '12 12:30 RE: Reply @Johnny Foreigner.

          "It's happening again, it's just that people can't see it. One day, Chinese people won't care whether their ancestors were better off in sweat shops or whether it was Chinese factories offering their cheap labour. All they'll know is that the west enjoyed plasma TVs, broadband, laptops, iPads and cheap clothes whilst their poor ancestors who made them had none of that, died worn out at a relatively young age, or even committed suicide because of the stress of it. Try telling the families of those men that they're better off that way."

          Agreed. Frankly speaking it ought to be obvious to anyone with two neurones firing at the same time. Bloody good post. -:)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Go

            Re: @AC 15th Feb '12 12:30 RE: Reply @Johnny Foreigner.

            China was an absolutely fscked-up country, similar to today's North Korea, for at least 150 years until 1980. Imagine 50 million people starved to death by Mao's social/economic experiments. Millions dead from Japanese invasion because their military was crap.

            Now look at the situation today, which is not nice in our eyes, but nearly magic progress as compared to pre-1980. And surely the working conditions will quickly improve as wages rise and people don't need to work in the same conditions as today. Just take South Korea as a template - they also went through hard working conditions until the 1990s. Now they are easily as wealthy as most of Europe and the US. That is how the free enterprise system works, if properly applied, to get a country out of the smelly mud into excellent wealth and living conditions. Just don't expect industrialization to be a cakewalk at the beginning.

            And many millions of Chinese are already quite wealthy, as the third-largest market for German luxury cars is - tata - China. German industry is only doing so well because the Chinese are buying whatever Germany can manufacture - at the normal price level. So the myth of the "poor, exploited Chinese" is only a very temporary thing. These people are just making a superhuman effort to elevate themselves into our wealth level and so far they are more successful than anyone expected them to be on that journey.

  4. Arctic fox
    Thumb Up

    @AC 01:26 GMT RE "Can't fix........"

    "Is it really unlikely that in another few hundred years, far-eastern people with a much higher standard of living will collectively hold a grudge against the west for what it did to their ancestors? We live in cities with racial divides and the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Is it hard to imagine the potential for a situation like this but on a global/regional level existing one day?"

    I agree with all your points but wished to emphasise my agreement with that particularly cogent observation. A potential global level example of "what goes around comes around" indeed. Those acting as semi-apologists for the slave trade point to the fact that it was often their own people who sold the victims to the slave traders. One can of course also make the same point concerning the Chinese authorities in permitting such conditions. However, in neither case do such arguments make our moral position any better. We in the West, whether we like to admit it or not, want to pay as little as possible for absolutely everything imaginable - and we find it all too convenient to forget that there is a price for everything and third world workers are paying it. We see regularly pundits howling that the tablet manufacturers have to get the price of the kit down in order to compete. How is it possible to do that *without* forcing millions to work under conditions that are totally illegal in the West? The short answer is of course that it is *not* possible and our refusal to pay more than the absolute minimum is the driving force here.

  5. CmdrX3
    Pint

    No Toga party??

    What a fighting tightass!!!

    1. AdamWill
      Joke

      yeah

      And what the hell am I supposed to do with this toga now?

  6. Lance 3

    "No one in our industry is doing more to improving working conditions than Apple,"

    Then how come it is the factories that are making the Apple products making the news? I have never heard of suicides, employees threatening to jump off the roof or a strike at other plants from the same manufacturer. Maybe it is the volume or other factors, but all things Apple can have addressed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Idiot

      Apple aren't the only company who uses those factories you read about, you numpty.

      Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Amazon (amongst many others) also build their gadgets there.

      Mentioning Apple in the headline generates the most interest. It's called biased reporting or "click bait".

      Despite Apple doing far more than those other companies to rectify issues, you don't hear stories jumping on those other companies track records because news outlets know Apple stories generate more interest.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      ORLY?

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/11/foxconn_mass_suicide/

      What about that? Also it's worth noting that the stories generally link the two; Apple kit is made by Foxconn, there has been a suicide/attempt at a Foxconn plant, ergo Apple workers commit suicide because the conditions are abhorrent. Muppets like you start screeching about the evils of the fruit, making false claims and asinine comments (see your post).

    3. Giles Jones Gold badge

      They're focussing on Apple at they are making a lot of money. But I doubt this extra money they're making is not by pressuring manufacturers into cutting corners, it is by the fact that their products are more expensive to buy in the first place.

    4. Euchrid

      Two different headlines for same story

      "'Mass suicide' protest at Apple manufacturer Foxconn factory" - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9006988/Mass-suicide-protest-at-Apple-manufacturer-Foxconn-factory.html

      "Xbox workers threaten suicide in China labor tiff" - http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9S7E4200.htm

      In the first story, the only reference to Apple in the actual story is: "Foxconn, which manufactures gadgets for the likes of Apple, Sony, Nintendo and HP, among many others, has had a grim history of suicides at its factories." Arguably, it's correct for them to illustrate that this affects *a lot* of companies in their choice of Foxconn but using a linkbait headline helps give a false impression that it's just one. However, not mentioning Microsoft is a little disingenuous,

  7. Michael Xion
    Thumb Up

    Isit irony?

    'apple china employees abuse cook' at the bottom of the article. Great confluence of tags.

  8. Potemkine Silver badge
    Flame

    Bastards united

    Apple makes a lot of money from the exploitation of Asian workers. It is not the only one, but it's no excuse.

    But in the end, the one who is responsible of all the sufferings endured by Asian workers (see the article of the NY times, "In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad") is the buyer of iPhone or iPad or whatever electronic product made in Asian, who doesn't give a fuck about the Asian worker as long as the buyer can selfishly enjoy the product. We don't care if their working conditions are atrocious, if they suffer, if they die because of exposure to toxic substances, as long as we can have the shiny new iPhone we can brag with.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The next time you post this comment

      please ensure it contains every IT product manufacrtured in China - not just those with an Apple name on them.

      Just look inside your own computer - the chances are you will find the name Foxconn in there on something. I've been seeing it since 1984.

      So are you going to stop buyuing computers?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The next time you post this comment

        In response to an article about Apple and the comments of its CEO?

        Yes, it's not only Apple, as has been mentioned my many other posters here, but I don't think you can afford to be so pious over an article specifically about Apple.

  9. Keith T

    But the NY Times article had Apple insisting on overtime

    But the NY Times article had Apple insisting on overtime, insisting that workers be kept in dorms so they could be woken up in the middle of the night to make changes.

    The example they gave was of the last minute change of the iPhone screen to tempered glass where the new material arrived late at night and the workers had to be unexpectedly awakened to produce the initial phones by morning.

  10. Giles Jones Gold badge

    To be honest, working conditions being audited by suppliers is only a short term fix. The long term fix is for China to respect human rights and for workers to form unions to ensure conditions are safe.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you don't like Chinese labour practices, boycott IT kit made in China

    Which is almost all of it.

    You could go further, and buy only IT kit made under humane and ethical conditions. Which is almost none of it.

    Or, you could:

    - become an activist or donor to try and address the issue

    - shut up and carry on as normal

    - post snarky comments online, which affect nothing, but will make you feel big and clever

    Me - sorry factory workers, but I'm going to shut up and carry on as normal

  12. g e

    As I say to my kids

    Just cos you're the one who's name came up doesn't make the others who were involved right.

    It doesn't make you any less wrong, either.

  13. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Apple's cash hoard -Buy Greece

    They could go and buy Greece lock stock and barrel with that money. Then they'd have a workforce outside China ready and willing to earn a few Euros, sorry Drachma building shiny toys.

  14. Ivan Headache

    I've posted this before but it bears repeating.

    During last summer the Lovely Ivana and I had tea with a couple of Taiwanese girls, one of whom had just finished a Masters in Electrical Engineering in London/

    She was looking forward to going home to her dream job at Foxconn.

    Doesn't that say something?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What is says is that the 'girls' are unlikely to be working on the factory floor assembling plastic pieces for the cost of a stick of chewing gum.

      How many Chinese factory workers go to London Universities to get a Masters?

      It's no more representative of your average Chinese worker than Prince William helping carry logs up a South American mountain during his gap year, or sleeping rough on the streets for one night.

      http://tinyurl.com/ye866sb

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too bad there seems to be no alternative to this labor rate race to the bottom

    Always remember that the wages and benefits that each and every one of you commenters receive and enjoy, are the result of hundreds of years of workers and union members railing (and dying) against unscrupulous business owners who consider(ed) their employees to be slaves and the governments those businesses own. In preventative reply to the flames from the "free market" idiots who don't know their history, you don't know fuckall you miserable twits.

    China, Taiwan, Vietnam Etc. (whatever low wageslave manufacturers refuge flavor of the month) have not experienced that revolution (yet). I can only hope that they do and soon.

    The so called"First World" continually takes advantage of the "3rd world" wage differences when the right thing to do would be to require that their standard of living be raised up slowly and proportionally over time, without cannibalizing everyone elses.

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