Tim Cook Defends Treatment of Chinese Workers

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On Wednesday, the New York Times published a story about working conditions and accidents at Chinese production plants used by Apple and others. Responding to the heat, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook explained Apple’s position in an e-mail to employees on Thursday, according to 9to5Mac.

Mr. Cook wrote, in part:

As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are….

“Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we’ve made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people….

“We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.”

The emerging awareness of conditions with workers in China also brought out some responses, pointed to again by the NYT, from Chinese workers themselves at microblogging sites. Many pointed out that conditions at other plants are much worse.

One of them said, “If people saw what kind of life workers lived before they found a job at Foxconn, they would come to an opposite conclusion of this story: that Apple is such a philanthropist.”

Another said, “Don’t you know that Samsung’s products are from its OEM factory in Tianjin? Samsung workers’ income and benefits are even worse than those at Foxconn….”

However, another pair of contributors relayed their feelings about the basic problem. “I told some people about the terrible working conditions in the Apple suppliers’ factories, and asked how they felt. They said, ‘We can’t do anything about it. That’s what cheap labor is about… People are getting numb to this… That’s horrible.’” And this: “Working conditions in smaller factories are even worse (than Foxconn). They have even longer work hours. The major reason is that suppliers are not at the top of the value chain and major brands can easily replace them. Also, workers in China do not have labor unions, and the Chinese government always protects the large companies.”

The result of all this has been an elevated discussion. Chinese workers’ voices are being heard and Apple is responding in a positive way.

Comments

varun

I dont think Apple or any other company is to be blamed for this. This is a fact of life. It is the Chinese government which has make standards for its companies. Legally/technically it makes no sense.

Ethically I think if apple knows about the conditions and still goes for it is incorrect. It is the Chinese who are at fault, there govt should take care of its people.

But at the end of the day we are all humans::: We should treat people with respect. Apple should pay a little more to Foxconn so the people are happy. If they have 10% less profit the world will not fall.

jsmith

Workers are the last in line when it comes to working condition. Third world is the worst. The companies there knows that without them there would be no jobs. There’s so many people looking for jobs that if you step outside of the company or resist, you’re fired. Government will look the other way, because they need the businesses and the money. Big corporations know this and takes advantage of it and then masks the problems that they are trying to improve working condition. As long as the PR works effectively and people forgets, no one will care about sweat-shops around the world.

NAT

I agreed the Chinese worker working condition is not perfect; however, foreign enterprise should not get the blame. Apple, HP and some of the major players has been trying to improve the Chinese factory environment but cannot solve the problem for them.  Chinese Government needs to step up to protect the worker, to protect their own people.
People has tendency looking at the negativities. Can we image if there is no foreign enterprise doing business in China and providing hundreds of million jobs, where these workers can find a job to support their family? In fact, many works today are willing to work overtime which beyond legal limits. Factory has difficulty to find workers if there is no overtime work premised on the time they hired.

Where is Chinese goverment to protect their own workers?

wab95

With extraordinary profitability and power, comes extraordinary responsibility. Like it or not, Apple are held to a higher, if not the highest, standard.

An activist global community will not sit idly by and turn a blind eye to inhumane or even onerous conditions for workers who serve Apple, even if they are the industry standard for a region and others’ workers fare the same or worse.

If Apple raises the bar for its suppliers and workers, it will be raised for others.

skipaq

John, I really do appreciate you putting in this follow up article. Likewise, the comments to this article and your earlier article are worth reading. Yes, Apple has a responsibility in regard to the contractors it hires. I have been of the opinion that Apple has been active in improving the conditions at Foxconn. Based on the comments of the Chinese people it does not appear that companies contracted by other Corporations than Apple have followed Apple’s lead. These problems will only be alleviated when the government of China looks out for the welfare of its’ people.

We should not be smug about working conditions in the U.S. either. While they may be better; that does not mean there are no problems.

Lee Dronick

These problems will only be alleviated when the government of China looks out for the welfare of its? people.

And the people help make it happen.

wab95

And the people help make it happen.

Agreed.

Comparing the conditions I have seen in China vs SE Asia, those in the latter are worse. The culture surrounding treatment of labourers in the region is Dickensian in the best of times.

This is so deeply entrenched that the only way these practices will change is if there is a concrete example that others can point to and that can serve as a model, not unlike the Arab Spring. Those who own and run these outfits are wealthy, powerful and politically well-connected, and they believe that their standards, such as they are, are better than others in their country. Too often, they are correct, but this is no justification.

And Apple is high profile. This is why Greenpeace went after Apple on their green credentials. If Apple adopted these standards, it would make it easier to bring the rest of the industry into line - with a little help from the activist community.

aardman

People who have lived all their lives in the first world have no standing at all to judge Foxconn and Apple.  Yes, it’s no picnic to work at Foxconn and I’m not excusing it but I suspected that Foxconn is actually one of the better employers precisely because Apple is so visible.

The alternative of not working in factories like Foxconn is grinding poverty in rural China.  Those who think they are doing these workers a favor by demanding that Apple and Foxconn pay them more are actually clamoring for these workers to lose their jobs.

Economic development doesn’t happen overnight.  Apple is actually setting the bar higher and should be commended for seeking to improve working conditions.

Pat Mahon

With extraordinary profitability and power, comes extraordinary responsibility. Like it or not, Apple are held to a higher, if not the highest, standard.

An activist global community will not sit idly by and turn a blind eye to inhumane or even onerous conditions for workers who serve Apple, even if they are the industry standard for a region and others? workers fare the same or worse.

If Apple raises the bar for its suppliers and workers, it will be raised for others.

What he said?

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