The New York Times has an extensive piece that profiles the working conditions faced by workers employed within Apple’s supply chain manufacturers. It’s a lengthy article that goes into detail with accounts about conditions at Foxconn, such as issues of worker suicides. Other former incidents such as the use of poisonous n-hexane at Wintek are also detailed.
Within the article, we hear from former Apple executives that claim the company has known about sub-par conditions:
“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.”
“If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?” the executive asked.
Apple has responded to criticism by recently releasing its annual report on supplier responsibility, where it audited companies and working conditions for its workers overseas. The New York Times article notes supplier margins are razor thin and once manufacturers land that golden Apple contract, they will do just about anything to save costs and cutting labour, such as forcing overtime on its workers.
The manufacturing machine in China is currently the most efficient in the world, and Apple along with other tech companies are taking full advantage of the mass scale of production that cannot be matched in the U.S. or anywhere else. How can conditions improve? It comes down to you and I, the consumer to pressure companies to improve conditions for overseas workers–but it comes at the cost of a more expensive product. Are you willing to pay more or do we continue to turn a blind eye?