Feeds

Apple Stores getting petitions on ethical conduct for breakfast

250,000 signatures for fair treatment of iWorkers

The essential guide to IT transformation

Breakfast at Apple retail outlets in Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, London, Sydney, and Bangalore will come with a side order of protest on Thursday morning, as “concerned Apple customers” will be dropping off 250,000-signature petitions calling out Apple on supplier working practices.

The petitions ask Apple to enforce better conditions for workers among its suppliers, name and shame those who fail the assessments by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), and publish a “worker protection strategy for new product releases,” when staff are most stressed by tight deadlines. Change.org provided around 195,000 of the signatures, with SumOfUs.org adding 55,000 more to hit the media-friendly quarter million mark.

“I have been a lifelong Apple customer and was shocked to learn of the abusive working conditions in many of Apple’s supplier factories,” said Mark Shields, who launched the campaign on Change.org, in an email to El Reg. “At Foxconn, one of Apple’s biggest manufacturers, there is a history of suicides, abusive working conditions, and almost no pay. These working conditions are appalling, especially for Apple.”

The event is similar to others in recent months, as concerns have grown among users over the possibility that their shiny iProducts might be washed with the tears of the enslaved. A steady drip of explosions, child labor, poisoning, strikes and suicides from Apple’s third party suppliers – with Foxconn the most visible target – led to the ethical promises made by Cook last month.

Apple says that is has had a monitoring systems in place for years and publishes its results on the FLA websites. Its 2012 Progress Report records 229 plant inspections, including 14 specialized environmental spot-checks, and almost 75 per cent passed muster. Working hours and wages were the chief problems, but 97 per cent of plants reported no child labor and 95 per cent had freedom of assembly.

As anyone who has been there will tell you, working conditions in the industrial sector of China are bad by modern Western standards, and very few companies are doing anything about it. In Apple’s 2011 Progress Report the company said that 40 per cent of the factories it inspected had never had a visit from a supplier for the purpose before. Almost all technology companies have operations in China, and if a similar lens were turned on Dell, HP or Acer it’s highly likely they might not score particularly well in some areas either, despite having their own policies on the matter.

Industrial revolutions are always messy however. In the Sheffield, arguably the birthplace of the UK’s industrialization, Engels reported that the average age of death for a knife grinder was barely 35. The infamous incineration of 146 female garment workers at New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist factory was just one of a string of similar cases in America’s manufacturing boom and China is no different. One reason why the first mass trade unions were formed in the Industrial era was that the working conditions were so appalling.

Some have called for Apple to bring out an ethically-produced line of products, or use some if its immense cash pile to help. Analysts estimate the manufacturing costs are $8 for an iPhone4s. Double that, use the money to increase wages and incentivize better working practices, allow Cupertino its customary mark up and you’re only looking at a $20 additional charge for peace of mind. But Apple’s highly unlikely to try it, since by inference this makes the rest of the product line, and existing users, look like they support worker abuse.

One sign of hope is the speed of change. It took over a century for British workers to get even moderately safe working conditions for many jobs, and the US’s own rather checkered history in the area of workers’ rights lasted nearly as long. Here’s hoping the Middle Kingdom manages things faster, but some judicious pressure from big firms for change would certainly help. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft exits climate denier lobby group
ALEC will have to do without Redmond, it seems
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?