Despite a ‘rigorously’ enforced code of conduct, new research highlights the continuation of poor working conditions standards

A year ago, a spate of suicides at Foxconn’s plants in China were followed by pledges by the company’s customers, notably Apple, HP and Dell, to work with Foxconn to help it achieve higher international labour standards. However, a report from Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) claims that poor working conditions continue.

SACOM researchers visited two Foxconn production facilities in Chengdu and Chongqing municipality in Western China, which manufacture Apple iPad 2 and HP laptops. They also revisited Foxconn’s flagship plants in industrial towns Longhua and Guanlan in the Shenzhen, where employees are still housed in dormitories surrounded with anti-suicide nets.

The report states: “Workers always have excessive and forced overtime in order to gain a higher wage. Workers are exposed to dust from construction sites and shop floors without adequate protection. Even worse, they are threatened by potential harm of occupational diseases in various departments. Additionally, military-styled management is still in practice, characterised by ‘military training’ for new workers.”

The report’s findings contrast sharply with Apple’s own statement on supplier responsibility in its 2011 progress report: “Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base. We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.

“Suppliers commit to the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct as a condition of doing business with us. Drawing on internationally recognised standards, our Code outlines expectations covering labor and human rights, health and safety, the environment, ethics, and management commitment.

“Apple monitors compliance with the Code through a rigorous programme of onsite factory audits, followed by corrective action plans and verification measures … By making social responsibility fundamental to the way we do business, we ensure our suppliers take Apple’s Code as seriously as we do.” SR