The latest release of the Apple iPhone has showed the world just how far Apple has come in its developments socially and technologically. It has been a decade since the iPhone phenomenon began with the release of the first iPhone, which introduced the smart-phone revolution. The lines are always out the door for people to get their hands on the latest and greatest but how does a company satisfy such demand ethically?
Quite frankly – it doesn’t! Labour abuse associated with Apple, specifically in China, has also unfortunately achieved a decade. Currently workers are employed by Foxconn, which is the largest electronics manufacturer in the world. The company is so large that it has more employees than the armed forces in the US combined! Apple is the company’s key client, manufacturing majority of Apple’s products including iPhones, iPads, iMacs, Macbooks and iPods. The company and as an extension, Apple, have come under extensive scrutiny in recent years through its military style management to reach almost unachievable deadlines set by Apple. These working conditions have resulted in multiple suicides of employees as a result of working conditions and severely low pay. The company quickly responded through building “nets” that are anti-jumping nets on the top of its buildings. Rather than directly solve the problem or change the management style, the company decided to implement netting that prevented suicides, similar to that which appeared on slave ships many centuries ago. Currently, workers at Foxconn plants start off making a maximum of $214 a month, meaning if they spent nothing at all they’d be able to afford a new iPhone in about 9 months.
Apple was also very quick to respond with Steve Jobs defending Apple’s position:
‘We look at everything at these companies,” Steve Jobs said after news of the suicides broke. “Foxconn is not a sweatshop. It’s a factory – but my gosh, they have restaurants and movie theatres… but it’s a factory. But they’ve had some suicides and attempted suicides – and they have 400,000 people there. The rate is under what the US rate is, but it’s still troubling.”
Steve Jobs, although commenting on the “troubling” nature of the suicides, failed to address the direct correlation with Apple nor the slavery style of work this company imposes. Apple further failed to acknowledge or account for the total number of lives lost because of the shiny rose-gold iPhone. One can only assume it must be in the thousands, with a decade of production and millions of workers working on that perfect glass screen which you will probably crack at the club on Friday.
Apple continues to conceal any responsibility, with official statements being all about rainbows and fairies throughout their Supplier Responsibility document such as:
“Products made to have a positive impact. On the world and the people who make them.”
Realistically, the claim that regulations that suppliers adhere to are held to the “highest standards” is a load of iTrash. They fail to mention that the regulations are Chinese labour regulations which are anything other than an extension of slavery, especially in these sweatshops, sorry I mean supplier factories. Although you know they get paid, compared to what you’re probably getting paid, it is incredibly low. Whilst the actual figures remain a mystery, organisations have made educated estimates calculating that the wage needs to be about $650 a month to survive. To earn this in an iPhone producing factory, employees would need to work 90 hours or more of overtime every month, which is double the legal restriction of 36 hours, a standard enforced in American and Australian workplaces. This ultimately forces employees to break the law and push themselves to exhaustion just to survive.
After these findings arose, Apple again strategically responded, announcing that it would work alongside Foxconn to reduce overtime hours to at least 49-50 hours a week, which is still considered an illegal amount for Western standards. Later, this promise was revoked with Apple vowing its support in adopting the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct which allows for 60 hours a week. The only real solution to increasing the drastically low wages of employees, without them ruining their mental and physical health or acting illegally, is for Apple and their suppliers to raise wages to a basic minimum.
Apple’s claims to be the most transparent of all IT companies is obviously inconsistent with reality. Through phoney statements to either cover their ass or sweep the issue under the rug, Apple fails to address the real issues and display a harsh and direct stance on these supplier companies. Putting your head in the sand and pretending everything is all hunky dory does not allow these workers basic human rights. Now don’t get me wrong, I am currently typing this article on my Macbook whilst texting on my iPhone 7 so can’t condemn Apple entirely as it is now a huge part of society. The constant promotion of Apple from the company itself, phone companies and society means that the demand for the image it promotes will remain in future years. The main issue is awareness, to ensure that something changes and relatively soon! A decade of mistreating workers is not something to be proud of, let’s hope the next decade has a human rights upgrade in its software.