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Expert defends Apple regarding Chinese worker conditions

A non profit agency investigating partner manufacturing plants in China for Apple products has said that working conditions are better than others in the country.

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) have been studying the conditions of Apple’s top eight suppliers in China after a raft of negative publicity. Apple were being accusing of letting workers build their devices in ‘slave like’ labor conditions. Workers at Foxconn committed suicide which was linked to long hours, low pay and terrible conditions.

The president of the FLA, Auret Van Heerden has yet to file a complete, indepth report on the factories, but he said that ‘boredom’ and ‘alienation’ could have been a contributing factor to the stress that caused the suicides. He added “The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm.”

Conditions at Foxconn's factories in Shenzhen and Hangzhou, which produce electronic goods for western companies including Apple, have been criticized. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

He spent several days visiting Foxconn plants to prepare for his study which will help companies improve the conditions, if needed. After visiting Foxconn he said “I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory. So the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory. . It’s more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps.”

Interestingly, he pointed out that there have been suicides in Chinese factories since the 1990’s, long before Apple were involved. “You have lot of young people, coming from rural areas, away from families for the first time, They’re taken from a rural into an industrial lifestyle, often quite an intense one, and that’s quite a shock to these young workers. And we find that they often need some kind of emotional support, and they can’t get it, Factories initially didn’t realize those workers needed emotional support.”

He defended Apple saying that they didn’t need to join the FLA in the first place. An organisation approved by Bill Clinton in 1996 to help prevent slave labor working conditions across the world.

“Apple didn’t need to join the FLA. The FLA system is very tough. It involves unannounced visits, complete access, public reporting. If Apple wanted to take the easy way out there were a whole host of options available to them,” he added. “The fact that they joined the FLA shows they were really serious about raising their game.”

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