Former Apple Executives Address Working Conditions in Suppliers' Factories

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The New York Times today published a lengthy report discussing working conditions at the facilities of Apple's suppliers in China, part of a growing focus on how Apple's popular products are made. While the company is making strides in holding its suppliers accountable to company standards, the report cites former Apple executives who note that the company continues to struggle balancing its desire for better working conditions and workers' rights with its business priorities.
Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products. [...]

"We've known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they're still going on," said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. "Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn't have another choice."
Apple is far from the only company experiencing such tensions, but has been receiving the most publicity due to the popularity of its products and its booming financial results.




Apple details its efforts on monitoring supplier responsibility in an annual report, outlining hundreds of audits it conducts to check for compliance and the steps it has taken to remedy issues discovered as part of the process. But sources note that while Apple routinely threatens companies with a loss of business if issues are not addressed, the company in practice has tolerate continued issues because it frequently has few alternatives in its supply chain.
"If you see the same pattern of problems, year after year, that means the company's ignoring the issue rather than solving it," said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. "Noncompliance is tolerated, as long as the suppliers promise to try harder next time. If we meant business, core violations would disappear."
The highest-profile issues at Apple suppliers have involved a number of suicides at Foxconn's facilities and separate explosions at Foxconn and Pegatron facilities last year that together resulted in four deaths and 77 injuries.

Apple has over 150 suppliers contributing to its products, many of them located in China and other Asian countries where workers are plentiful and wages low in comparison to other regions of the world. Last week, The New York Times detailed how the U.S. has been unable to compete with China for production of the iPhone and other devices as factories in Asia have proven to be considerably more flexible in their ability to scale production up and down and have become the location for nearly the entire supply chain.

But while the economics and logistics of manufacturing in China bring Apple speed, scale, and costs that are unmatchable in the United States, the company finds itself struggling to deal with the human factor that has become increasingly visible alongside Apple's rise to prominence.

Article Link: Former Apple Executives Address Working Conditions in Suppliers' Factories
 

AppleDroid

macrumors 6502a
Apr 10, 2011
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This sounds like the old movie cliche', "I'm sorry I had to do this" while they continue to kick/punch/abuse someone to get what they want.

The sad truth is that we want cheaper products so they use countries with lower wages and worse working/living environments. If we'd all accept a 300% jump in the cost of electronics we could manufacturer everything locally.
 

kyjaotkb

macrumors 6502a
Nov 20, 2009
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Maybe a little part of that cash pile could help.
Anyway one should always take declarations from *former* execs with a grain of salt
 

theheadguy

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Apr 26, 2005
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Anyway one should always take declarations from *former* execs with a grain of salt
I despise when people say such ridiculous things. Sometimes you can only speak freely and openly once you have left, especially after your NDA expires.

Now, on to something that won't be popular here. There will be plenty of posts that say this is a worldwide problem, not just an Apple problem-- and they'd be right. However, news like this sheds light on corporate responsibility being more of a marketing term than a way of doing business. As a company currently sitting with $97.6 BILLION dollars in CASH ON HAND, they should dramatically improve the working conditions and lives of people who make their products, not have an attitude of "well everyone else does it." While their position is popular on this forum, it's not right. Life is not all about money, it's about the health and well being of yourself, your family, and hopefully (if even to a lesser extent), your fellow man. I would pay more money for an iPod or Mac if they had decent wages and living conditions that didn't encourage worker suicides. Spare me the "I don't have more money to shell out." If you are really that bad off, then quit wasting your money on consumer electronics that you can't afford.
 
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wonderspark

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I think it would be great if Apple took the lead and bravely built a new, über-efficient manufacturing complex in the US. Glass, plastic, screws, silicon and even "liquid metal" makers on one large chunk of land here, with the ends of the buildings funneling parts to an assembly plant. The other end of assembly could be all train/truck bays, ready to head off to Apple Stores.

They say they can't find the people to do those jobs, but I disagree. If they build it, workers will come. Not for $17 a day or whatever, but a reasonable wage. Apple can afford it, but isn't interested or serious about it yet. They even said American unemployment isn't their problem. Kinda takes the jam out of my doughnut.
 

chrono1081

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Jan 26, 2008
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Maybe a little part of that cash pile could help.
Anyway one should always take declarations from *former* execs with a grain of salt
Agreed. I'm not sure I put a ton of faith in this story. Foxconn would change tomorrow if Apple told them to? Nope. Not buying it. Apple isn't even close to the only company who uses Foxconn and there would be many more companies who would have say in working conditions vs efficiency.
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Jul 11, 2003
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Looks like the Times is aiming for a Pulitzer. No coincidence that they released the story after Apple announced earnings.

While this is a huge problem, it is not an Apple problem; it's a worldwide one. The media likes to attach Apple's name to these stories because Apple stories = eyeballs.
 

Consultant

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Jun 27, 2007
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I think it would be great if Apple took the lead and bravely built a new, über-efficient manufacturing complex in the US. Glass, plastic, screws, silicon and even "liquid metal" makers on one large chunk of land here, with the ends of the buildings funneling parts to an assembly plant. The other end of assembly could be all train/truck bays, ready to head off to Apple Stores.

They say they can't find the people to do those jobs, but I disagree. If they build it, workers will come. Not for $17 a day or whatever, but a reasonable wage. Apple can afford it, but isn't interested or serious about it yet. They even said American unemployment isn't their problem. Kinda takes the jam out of my doughnut.
Apple had built iMac in the US until as late as 2002 or so, years after HP, Dell and other companies moved their production to China.
 

gnasher729

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Nov 25, 2005
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I read the article.

Curiously, it doesn't mention the names of the "former Apple executives". I would just propose that _any_ former Apple executive will feel very unhappy right now because they missed out on the huge success of Apple on the stock market. Rubinstein would be ten times richer than he is, had he staid at Apple. That might have something to do with this.

But really, what do "former Apple executives" know about Apple's dealings with companies in China?


I despise when people say such ridiculous things. Sometimes you can only speak freely and openly once you have left, especially after your NDA expires.
Well, openly. There is an "appeal to authority" here because it is claimed that "former Apple executives" are talking. Which is obviously garbage if the "former Apple executives" don't give their names. I think one "former Apple executive" is now in jail because he sold plans of Apple products to companies in China; is that the source? (Well, what do these guys call "executives"? Some middle manager? )
 

Undecided

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Mar 4, 2005
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First of all, it's absurd for people to quote how much other folks in other countries make per day without considering their lower expenses, including taxes, housing, food, transportation, health care, etc. It may sound like Americans earn a lot, but then when you describe how much we pay in taxes, rent/mortgage, etc. it doesn't seem so great.

Second, Americans may not be so inclined to complain about conditions elsewhere when they realize how much more they would have to pay for the crap they buy if everything was like conditions in America.

Third, employees are not slaves. They are free to quit and go elsewhere, and if that happens enough then employers will have to improve things anyway. It's happened in the US time and time again - when labor is scarce, employers have to offer all kinds of incentives. Let the labor market operate like a free market.

Fourth, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. People love to advertise a Foxconn employee committing suicide without revealing that the suicide rate among Foxconn employees is actually lower than the surrounding population.
 

DTphonehome

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It's fine to hold Apple's feet to the fire, but it's only fair to do the same to all other manufacturers using Asian labor and facilities (ie, all of them). Most companies are not going nearly as far as Apple is to protect workers.
 

Rodimus Prime

macrumors G4
Oct 9, 2006
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Looks like the Times is aiming for a Pulitzer. No coincidence that they released the story after Apple announced earnings.

While this is a huge problem, it is not an Apple problem; it's a worldwide one. The media likes to attach Apple's name to these stories because Apple stories = eyeballs.
Differences is Apple has both the money and power to do something about it and they are choosing not to. Instead they demand more profit to paid the bottom line.
 

Tones2

macrumors 65816
Jan 8, 2009
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I read the article.

Curiously, it doesn't mention the names of the "former Apple executives". I would just propose that _any_ former Apple executive will feel very unhappy right now because they missed out on the huge success of Apple on the stock market. Rubinstein would be ten times richer than he is, had he staid at Apple. That might have something to do with this.

But really, what do "former Apple executives" know about Apple's dealings with companies in China?


ell, openly. There is an "appeal to authority" here because it is claimed that "former Apple executives" are talking. Which is obviously garbage if the "former Apple executives" don't give their names. I think one "former Apple executive" is now in jail because he sold plans of Apple products to companies in China; is that the source? (Well, what do these guys call "executives"? Some middle manager? )
So, you think that all of the OTHER reported sources of terrible employee conditions at Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturing facilities used by Apple have also been falsified? Jezz, you fanboys....:rolleyes:

Tony

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Most companies are not going nearly as far as Apple is to protect workers.
So have no proof of this statement, one way or the other.

Tony
 

69650

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Mar 23, 2006
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I'm sure one day someone will figure out how to build tiny little manufacturing robots that can assemble an iPhone with no human input so you don't have to manufacture in China.

In the meantime if Apple made a little less profit then these poor people working in these factories could have better working conditions and better pay. Apples' $100Bn cash pile is just obscene when you read stories like this.
 

DTphonehome

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wonderspark said:
I think it would be great if Apple took the lead and bravely built a new, über-efficient manufacturing complex in the US. Glass, plastic, screws, silicon and even "liquid metal" makers on one large chunk of land here, with the ends of the buildings funneling parts to an assembly plant. The other end of assembly could be all train/truck bays, ready to head off to Apple Stores.

They say they can't find the people to do those jobs, but I disagree. If they build it, workers will come. Not for $17 a day or whatever, but a reasonable wage. Apple can afford it, but isn't interested or serious about it yet. They even said American unemployment isn't their problem. Kinda takes the jam out of my doughnut.
Ultimately, Apple can't afford it. They have dozens of competitors looking to undercut them at every turn, and what you are proposing would raise the price of Apple products to uncompetitive levels.
 

johncarync

macrumors regular
Aug 2, 2005
216
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Cary, NC
Foxconn Suicide Rate is Lower than National Average

I strongly recommend listening an episode with Mike Daisey on This American Life which aired a few weeks ago. He gives a really interesting look at the Foxconn factories.
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/454/mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory
That was a great episode. One interesting statistic they turned up is that the rate of suicide for Foxconn's employees is something like 15 per 100,000 and the national average for China is around 22 per 100,000.

In another part of the episode, they were interviewing a man who's hand had been crushed by a machine that makes part of the iPad. He was then fired because he couldn't work anymore. The reporter had an iPad and showed it to the former Foxconn employee--he had never seen one assembled and turned on. He used it for a couple of minutes, swiping at it with his crippled hand, then said, "It's magic!"
 

admanimal

macrumors 68040
Apr 22, 2005
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Tim Cook seems like more of a humanitarian than Steve was, so maybe Apple will be more proactive about these things with him in charge.
 

Tones2

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Jan 8, 2009
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Differences is Apple has both the money and power to do something about it and they are choosing not to. Instead they demand more profit to paid the bottom line.
Yes, exactly. Whether or not they can change the behavior of Foxconn or others with terrible employee practices, they certainly would be able to pull out and go to other suppliers if they supported employees being treated humanely. Yes, it would affect their bottom line somewhat - but they would be an extremely profitable company either way. The fact that they let this ride is a testamant of where their priorities lie. That's the facts, kids - you can't argue what the conditions are there and the fact that Apple keeps giving them business. It really doesn't matter if a former executive is talking about it or just the national news reporting.

Tony
 

gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
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So, you think that all of the OTHER reported sources of terrible employee conditions at Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturing facilities used by Apple have also been falsified? Jezz, you fanboys....:rolleyes:
So all you can do is use ad hominem attacks. Not really an argument, is it?

It's really easy: If someone is a "former Apple executive" then they don't know what's going on at Apple now, except for possibly hearsay, and if there was anything done wrong while that person was an executive, why the **** didn't they speak up then?
 

Tones2

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Ultimately, Apple can't afford it. They have dozens of competitors looking to undercut them at every turn, and what you are proposing would raise the price of Apple products to uncompetitive levels.
No - it would cut their profit margin somewhat. They do not have to pass it back to the consumer. Supporting human rights is not always the MOST profitable thing a company can do, but it's a necessity especially for a company like Apple that gives a lot of PR bull that they actually care about things like this.

Tony