“Apple, whose products the world cannot get enough of, has been justifiably criticized for poor working conditions and low wages at the factories of its chief supplier in China, Foxconn. Now, however, there are signs that all the negative attention, including reports in this newspaper, has caused the companies to make changes, like raising wages, limiting work hours and providing chairs with backs instead of stools at workstations.
As Keith Bradsher and Charles Duhigg recently reported in The Times, Apple and Foxconn are working to reduce workweeks, first to 60 hours and eventually to 49. Wages have also been increased, in some cases by as much as 50 percent, to make up for fewer hours of overtime.
While tentative and disputed by some independent labor groups, these changes, along with improvements made by Hewlett-Packard and other companies, are a positive first step in what will very likely be a long process of ensuring fair compensation and sound factory conditions for the millions working in this industry. […]
Independent labor activists acknowledge that Apple and Foxconn, which is China’s largest private sector employer with 1.4 million workers, are no worse than other companies in the industry and are probably doing more than their competitors to improve working conditions. As leaders in technology manufacturing, they should chart the course for others to follow. But Apple and Foxconn, which is based in Taiwan, have both been very secretive about factory conditions and even reforms, refusing to release audit and investigative reports that would help raise standards across the industry.
In May, Timothy Cook, the chief executive, said Apple would be “the most transparent company” in the world on issues related to workers’ welfare and supplier responsibility. It is time for the company to start living up to that promise. The production of iPhones and iPads requires skilled and semiskilled workers who increasingly have more bargaining power and cannot be as easily replaced as, say, the Bangladeshi women who stitch clothes for American retailers like Walmart. For companies operating in China and earning billions in profits, corporate responsibility demands that workers be treated and paid fairly.”
Progress Where They Make iPhones | NYT