Apple Announces Independent Inspections of Its Factories
We've seen this picture before. News of Apple's using factory suppliers who engage in abusive labor practices prompts Apple to investigate their suppliers. And then what? The suppliers continue their practices, perhaps surreptitiously at first. And the spotlight is off Apple until the next event occurs and the media swarms in like locusts.
Last May it was a fire and explosion, one of two that happened within the year, though Apple had been warned about dangerous conditions at the factory. Reports of under age workers, suicides, improper disposal of hazardous waste, falsified records in addition to abusive and dangerous work environments that have ended in deaths have created PR problems for Apple. The company since 2007 dealt with the negatives by instituting a supplier code of conduct and it has companies file annual supplier responsibility reports. What good is this if more than half of the suppliers audited by Apple violated the code of conduct every year since 2007 and have even violated the laws of China?
But what are a few workers in comparison to Apple's mammoth profits, this last quarter being one of the most productive. Last month, Apple reported $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales. Its sales would have been even higher, executives said, if overseas factories had been able to produce more. And despite labor problems, Apple is the darling of Wall Street. Today its stock price reached $502.60 a share by the end of the day. This is the first time in history that the stock price broke through the $500 barrier. So if the company has found its synergy to create immense wealth, why muck with its suppliers and create road bumps with investigatory peaking into the filthy underbelly of labor practices Apple obviously condones? Well these new independent inspections that are taking place might not necessarily "muck" with the suppliers. It all depends.
To show its good will and alleviate the concern of those who might want to purchase a new Apple iPad 3 in March but might hesitate at the thought that the device has resulted in the misery, suffering, injury and deaths of factory workers, Apple has requested that The Fair Labor Association (FLA) will audit several suppliers, including Foxconn in China (purportedly the largest, most productive supplier, as well as the one with the most abusive/dangerous work environment) The association is doing an independent inspection which is being touted as unlike any other having been undertaken in the electronics industry in breadth and detail. The FLA's president, Auret van Heerden, will supervise the investigation during which employee interviews will be conducted at Foxconn's large factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu. Apple said results of the first assessments will be published in early March. The date is significant if rumors of the iPad 3 release are correct.Continued on the next page