Apple is completely ignoring the poor working conditions at many of its fabrication facilities, according to former employees and several anonymous Apple executives.
Over the past couple of years there have been calls for the technology manufacturer to address the working facilities in its production plants, after several workers committed suicide and industrial accidents killed and injured others. As the New York Times (NYT) report begins, it sights an example from last May, where an explosion in an iPad production plant killed two and injured many more.
Employees often work horrendous overtime with no breaks and rules that prohibit talking. Often times they live where they work as well - to reduce travel costs - in crowded dormitories that aren't particularly sanitary. These conditions not only lead to mental scarring, but a large number of workers have wide ranging physical symptoms including swollen legs and damaged joints, making it hard for some to walk.
Even with several hundred workers injured in the past couple years alone, Apple has done very little to prevent further incidents and improve conditions. Foxconn facilities - that are producing Apple hardware - installed nets around the roof of the plants to prevent suicide jumpers, as well as installing a stress busting room for employees to punch blow up dolls. This doesn't remotely go far enough and according to the report by NYT some of the Apple higher ups know this and want to do more.
"We've known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they're still going on," said one former Apple executive. "Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn't have another choice."
But we need cheap iPads right?
Back in 2010 Steve Jobs discussed the fruity firm's position on suppliers: "I actually think Apple does one of the best jobs of any companies in our industry, and maybe in any industry, of understanding the working conditions in our supply chain."
I feel quite comfortable saying that that was quite an obvious lie.
"I mean, you go to this place, and, it's a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they've got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it's a pretty nice factory," he continued.
Conversely, a statement from a former Apple executive said: "We're trying really hard to make things better, but most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from." Reports from employees will confirm that while some of the facilities Jobs described are present, conditions are general very poor and upkeep is almost non-existent.
As the lengthy report by NYT continues, it reveals other details about some of Apple's facilities, including wall mounted banners that warn employees to "Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow."
The two major explosions that occurred in Apple facilities in the past few years have been put down to aluminium dust, something that analysts claim is very easy to solve with simple ventilation.
Part of the reason nothing gets done though, is that Apple requires suppliers remain secretive about their work in order to maintain trade secrets. However, this leads to people not hearing issues about working conditions until it's too late.
"We've had this conversation hundreds of times," said a former executive in Apple's supplier responsibility group. "There is a genuine, company wide commitment to the code of conduct. But taking it to the next level and creating real change conflicts with secrecy and business goals, and so there's only so far we can go."
Hopefully with the extra publicity now being directed at the issues in iPad, iPhone and iPod production, more will be done to improve the working lives of employees. Things are beginning to change within the organisation itself too, so perhaps we can be hopefully. I'd like to think so.