Instant View: Apple, Foxconn promise better working conditions

Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:34pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Apple Inc has agreed to work with partner Foxconn to improve wages and working conditions at the Chinese factories that produce its popular electronics products.

The move follows an investigation by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and a crescendo of criticism that Apple's products are built by mistreated, underpaid workers.

The following are immediate comments.

JUSTIN FELDMAN, HEALTH AND SAFETY ADVOCATE, PUBLIC CITIZEN

"In theory it's an improvement, but it actually has to happen. Without an effective oversight mechanism there is no accountability."

"The current standards that Apple suppliers are supposed to be following are not being enforced. For example, there was a 60-hour maximum work week imposed by these standards. Apple's own report into its supply chain found that this was not being followed."

"People are often pressured into working extra hours and others want to work longer hours. If people are allowed or encouraged or forced to work longer hours, that pushes down wages overall. From an individual's perspective people want to work longer hours to make more money. But if there is a higher supply of labor hours, wages fall."

"We just can't trust the FLA. The FLA has a history of close alignment with corporations. Its board has had corporate representatives on it in the past. Nike has been one of the FLA members and is funded by industry contributions."

"Another group was started as an alternative by student anti-sweatshop activists called the Worker Rights Consortium. Apple and Foxconn should allow an independent group like the Worker Rights Consortium to regularly inspect their factories."

SHAW WU, ANALYST, STERNE AGEE

"It is good to see Apple work in conjunction with its manufacturing partners in improving working conditions."

"The reality is that Apple isn't the only OEM (original equipment manufacturer) vendor but the most visible one so they are arguably held to a double standard."

MEG ROGGENSACK, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST

"This FLA agreement with Foxconn will safeguard the health and welfare (of) the company's employees by bringing their work conditions into compliance with basic human rights standards."

"The key to the report's success, however, will be implementation of this agreement. Talk is cheap. The steps needed to protect workers in Apple's supply chain may not be."

(Reporting by Poornima Gupta, Noel Randewich, Alistair Barr)

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