Investigations and petitions...
To be fair, some progress is being made. The FLA investigations will continue to delve deeper into conditions at various Apple suppliers and sites over the coming months, while Apple CEO Tim Cook has admitted to the existence of underage labour in suppliers' plants, and has pledged to end it – although he claimed it had been eradicated from final-assembly factories such as Foxconn’s plants.
Cook also admitted that Apple’s rules on voluntary overtime were often broken and said the firm had begun to "manage working hours on a very micro basis".
Foxconn also reportedly raised its workers’ wages as of 1 February by 16 to 25 per cent, but Chan argued that with deductions usually made for accommodation and food costs, workers still need to ramp up a lot of overtime to get by.
For Chan, the only solution involves democratically elected trade union representation at the factories – at the moment representatives are hand-picked – and the continuing pressure of consumers.
“We believe there will be renewed action taken by Apple after the FLA report but our organisation is only small – how do we monitor any changes at Foxconn or in other suppliers?” she said.
“Workers there have told us they’ve often observed the presence of Apple [officials]. They only care about the products and profits not labour rights, but they need to have more sensitivity about working conditions. We need to improve the quality of inspections but there should also be effective trade union representation so workers can have dialogue with [their employers].”
SACOM this month drew up a petition demanding Apple stop using student workers and improve conditions at its suppliers, but has so far failed to engage the fruity tech titan in this.
“Apple has become more transparent by joining the FLA, but we went to the Apple store in Hong Kong to deliver another petition from one of our American partners recently,” Chan explained. “We waited outside for an hour but no one was willing to receive our letter and eventually they called the police.” ®
Updated to Add
Foxconn representatives have been in touch with a statement, from which we quote:
Let us be very clear, Foxconn does not employ, in any capacity, any underage workers.
Foxconn increased wages throughout our operations in China to ensure that we maintained our position as one of the highest paying companies in our industry.