Apple announced today that auditors from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) are inspecting factories in China that produce the iPhone, Ipad, and MacBook. These inspections came after Apple admitted to knowing about explosions in two factories caused by aluminum dust which killed four workers.
According to the FLA, Apple is the first technology corporation to join the organization as a participating member which it did so about a month ago after the allegations of explosions in two Chinese factories.
Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about the audit in a statement: “We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers.”
One of the explosions took place at the Foxconn plant in Chengdu China; the other occurred at a Shanghai factory operated by RiTeng, another supplier for Apple. The auditors plan to tour both facilities.
Apple, however, claims that the company has already done an independent audit and addressed all issues involving the explosions in those two plants.
Apple states that the FLA will also conduct thousands of interviews with employees at the two plants to try and asses the situation. Employees will be asked about compensation, work place safety, living quarters and many other things. This will all serve to determine the conditions at these two plants.
The FLA will publish its findings on their website at the conclusion of the investigation.
This isn’t the first time Apple has come under scrutiny from international labor groups. They have been accused of a whole host of worker’s rights issues in many of their manufacturing plants around the world. And while the FLA may not find any violations at the moment in these plants, that does not mean these workers are not being exploited.
There is a reason companies like Apple produce their products in China: labor laws. Any American would take one look at these factories and tell you that they are unfit working environments.
In most cases, pay is extremely low, safety conditions are terrible, hours are excruciatingly long, and the provided housing is substandard. However, that is all because that is what Chinese labor law allows.
So don’t let yourself get fooled into believing that if the FLA says everything is good, it is. What they mean is that everything is as good as China says it needs to be. If Apple really wanted to do something worthwhile for their employees overseas, instead of joining some international watchdog group that does not really help, they cold maybe try compensating them a little better.
Production is already outsourced to a country where it is cheaper to do business. So why not take a little bit of their profit and give it back to their employees? Oh yea, because the Chinese government won’t make them, and that’s why they are over there in the first place.
Remember, the bottom line to most major corporations is carried only across the backs of sweatshop labor and despicable business practices. But then again, it is “just business,” after all.