Did Apple LIE About Fixing Labor Conditions at Foxconn?

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) claimed to have made efforts at improving the conditions of workers at its supply partners’ factories, but a new report finds not much has changed. Foxconn, Apple’s main manufacturer, had been highly criticized for making its almost 1.2 million workers work in what were mass production “sweatshops.”

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A report released on Thursday by labor watchdog Student & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour found that labor rights violations at Foxconn’s huge factories in China “remain the norm,” with high production targets and inhumane treatment.

“The frontline management continue to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers,” SACOM, which made several visits to Foxconn factories and interviewed almost 170 workers, said in its report. “The above findings demonstrate that Apple and Foxconn have not turned over a new leaf.”

SACOM found that the overall salaries of workers have dropped despite an increase in basic pay because overtime work has been cut. However, production targets remain high, effectively forcing unpaid overtime on workers. While stools have now been introduced for some workers, they have been instructed to sit on only a third of the seat, so that they remain “nimble” enough to do the work.

Punishments are still a key management tool, with workers being forced to clean toilets, sweep lawns, and write “confession letters” that are put up on noticeboards. Living conditions also remain bad as 20 or 30 workers share three-bedroom flats and are forbidden from using electrical items such as kettles or laptops, according to a report in The Guardian.

After numerous reports that labor practices at Foxconn plants were unsafe and the bad conditions forced worker deaths and suicides, Apple allowed the watchdog Fair Labor Association to conduct a probe of the factories in March. The FLA found several red flags, including extreme work hours and unpaid overtime.

Apple and Foxconn had pledged improvements after that report, but things don’t seem to have changed. “I haven’t seen any real evidence of any significant changes,” Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin, another group that monitors Foxconn, told Reuters. “At the moment they’re just tinkering around the edges and doing PR stunts … I don’t think there’s a short term fix to the situation at Foxconn. It’s too big, it’s too complicated.”

Workers assembling products for other companies including Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) also face similarly bad conditions, according to the report.

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