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Apple, Foxconn, and the Fair Labor Association have each responded to ABC’s “iFactory: Inside Apple” news special, which aired last night on ABC.
The iFactory Nightline episode told the story of Foxconn, a Chinese factory that produces iPads, iPhones, and MacBooks for Apple. The factory has been criticized for poor working conditions and suicide threats. Apple invited the Fair Labor Association, along with ABC’s Bill Weir, to take a look into its assembly lines. The factory, while clean and seemingly safe, still has suicide nets that scale the sides of its buildings to protect employees from themselves. Top complaints from factory workers are low wages, no benefits, and long hours.
The three entities issued one clarification each, and ABC ran the statements on its site.
ABC caught up with a young woman working at Foxconn who only makes enough to visit her family once a month. She explained that she eliminates extra material from the Apple insignia on 6,000 iPads a day, though Apple disagrees with that number.
ABC said: Zhou Xiao Ying admits, “A lot of times I think about how tired I am.” Around 6,000 times per shift, she grabs an iPad housing and files the aluminum shavings from the iconic Apple silhouette.
Apple responded: “In manufacturing parlance this is called deburring. Her line processes 3,000 units per shift, with two shifts per day for a total of 6,000. A single operator at Ms. Zhou’s station would deburr 3,000 iPads in a shift.”
Thousands of Chinese hopefuls line the Foxconn gates during hiring season. Weir contended that the starting salary for Foxconn employees wasn’t enough to qualify them for regular Chinese payroll taxes. Foxconn says that, with overtime, 75 percent of its employees could hit the tax target.
ABC said: “Starting salary is around $285 a month or $1.78 an hour. And even with the maximum 80 hours of overtime a month, the Chinese government considers them too poor to withdraw any payroll taxes. ”
Foxconn responded: “We have over 75 percent of the employees in the category of earning at least 2,200 RMB ($349/month) basic compensation standard. That means they are earning 13.75 RMB ($2.18) per hour. If they work overtime on the weekend, they will earn 27 RMB ($4.28) per hour. In order to reach 3500 to be taxable, they will have to work 47 OT hours to reach 3,500.”
“If the overtime hours are in weekdays, they have to work around 63 hours per month to reach that level of salary to be taxable.”
“Your statement is only true when applying to the entry-level workers while over 75 percent are already over the probation and earning more than 2,200 RMB basic salary.”
Fair Labor Association
Suspicions abound whether the Fair Labor Association will go too easy on Apple, given that Apple is the first electronics company to join the FLA. Additionally, it is paying dues to be in the association and is paying for the audits, which the FLA will perform. The FLA clarified how long it had been in talks with Apple. Weir had interviewed FLA president Auret van Heerden.
ABC said: “Was Apple resistant to this idea when you first approached them?” I ask. “It was a long conversation,” van Heerden smiles. “We’ve been in this conversation for about five years,” he says. Apple joined the F.L.A. on Jan. 13, eight days before the New York Times ran a series examining the company’s labor practices.
Fair Labor Association responded: “The discussions began in April 2007 but stalled in March 2008. We then resumed them in April 2009 and decided to do a small pilot survey so that Apple could get an idea of how our tools might add value to their program. That pilot led to a second activity that I believe contributed to the decision to join the FLA at the end of 2011. I, of course, cannot speak for Apple but I do believe that the decision to join was probably taken some months before (and therefore well before) the New York Times articles.”