NYT expose lifts the lid on the human cost of Apple gadgets

New York Times report puts treatment of Apple's Chinese factory workers in the spotlight

LAST UPDATED AT 16:46 ON Thu 26 Jan 2012

APPLE'S attitude towards its suppliers and their employees has been thrust back into the spotlight thanks to a New York Times report that claims to lift the lid on the shocking working conditions in Chinese factories that build the company's trendy products.
 
The article tells the story of one worker, Lai Xiaodong, who was killed in an aluminium dust explosion at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu in May last year and paints a picture of the "harsh" and "bleak" environment in which iPads and other must-have devices are built.
 
One former Apple executive says: "Most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from."
 
An ex-employee of Foxconn, the most well-known of Apple's suppliers in China, which has made headlines because of suicides among workers, said: "Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost... Workers' welfare has nothing to do with their interests."
 
And while excited technophiles eagerly anticipate new products, Apple's audits have found evidence of employees being forced to work for more than six days a week and put in extended overtime. There have been allegations of involuntary labour, under-age workers, record falsification and the improper disposal of hazardous waste. Apple's critics say that if they were serious about improving conditions they could remedy the situation.
 
The NY Times also lifts the lid on the pressure manufacturers are under. "Executives want to know every financial detail. Afterward, Apple calculates how much it will pay for a part. Most suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits.
 
"So suppliers often try to cut corners, replace expensive chemicals with less costly alternatives, or push their employees to work faster and longer, according to people at those companies."
 
The piece notes that companies like Nike and Gap have been forced to change their ways in the face of public outrage, but ends with the words of a current Apple executive. He tells the Times: "Right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China." · 

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