Labor watchdog says Foxconn sweatshops haven’t improved much

Labor watchdog Student & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) today criticized Apple (again), arguing that conditions in Foxconn’s manufacturing facilities in China haven’t really improved following the FLA audits. In fact, they claim higher-ups continue to impose “humiliating disciplinary measures on workers”, audits be damned…

Reuters has the story:

Working conditions at Foxconn’s gargantuan Chinese factories that assemble Apple Inc’s slick gadgets have barely improved despite pledges this year to halt labor violations, workers’ rights activists and employees said on Thursday.

SACOM’s report is based on visits to several Foxconn factories and 170 worker interviews. The labor watchdog claims rights violations “remain the norm”, which includes “high production targets, inhumane treatment and signs of overall salary cuts”.

The organization wrote in the report:

The frontline management continue to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers. The above findings demonstrate that Apple and Foxconn have not turned over a new leaf.

A Foxconn spokesperson issued the following statement:

The welfare of our employees is without a doubt our top priority and we are working hard to give our more than one million employees in China a safe and positive working environment.

FLA issued the results of its audit of Foxconn factories back in March.

They found out cases of excessive overtime, insufficient compensation and health concerns, prompting Cupertino to tap its $110 billion cash pile toward improving labor conditions, which includes wage increases for Foxconn workers next month.

However, there were no signs of sweatshops or slave-like employee handling.

Mike Daisey also critized Apple indirectly in a blog post today, calling out journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher for not asking Apple’s boss Tim Cook tough questions at the D10: All Things Digital conference.

Daisey, who fabricated some of his stories alleging serious mistreatment of Apple’s supply chain workers, would have asked Cook  this had he had an opportunity:

Recently you went to China for the first time as CEO to tour Foxconn’s production lines. Apple’s first outside audits of Foxconn happened in 2006, after media coverage back then, and the report recommendations made six years ago are the same as the ones made by the FLA in 2012.

Did it not seem important enough a priority for the CEO go until now, six years later? Why did it take so long?

Cook said at D10 that he hoped people would “rip us off blindly” in manufacturing.

On overtime, Cook said:

We went through a lot of effort in taking overtime down. It’s hard, it’s complex. Some people want to work a lot. Some people want to work a whole lot because they want to move and work for a year or two and bring back as much money as they can to their village.

We took a position to say we want to bring this down. We’re measuring working hours for 700,000 people. I don’t know who else is doing this. And we’re reporting it. It’s almost like the labor report that the U.S. puts out.

As you know, Apple joined the FLA earlier this year amidst an onslaught of criticism that it was neglecting its supplier responsibilities.

What do you say, should Apple double down on improving conditions in factories overseas?