By Sudarshana Banerjee

Cheaper electronics, but at exactly what cost? Apple is trying to find out. The company has requested a audit by the Fair Labor Association (FLA).

Apple joined the FLA in January this year. FLA participating companies agree to uphold the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct throughout their supply chains and commit to the FLA’s Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing.  In 2011, the FLA worked with Apple to assess the impact of Apple’s training programs which help raise awareness of labor rights and standards among workers in its supply chain.

Like all new affiliates, Apple will align its compliance program with FLA obligations within the next two years.

The audit is believed to be the first step in that direction. Other FLA participating companies include the Adidas group, H&M, Barnes&Noble, Syngenta and Nike, among others.

The FLA Workplace Code of Conduct defines labor standards that aim to achieve decent and humane working conditions. The Code’s standards are based on International Labor Organization standards and internationally accepted good labor practices, according to the FLA Preamble.  Companies affiliated with the FLA are expected to comply with all relevant and applicable laws and regulations of the country in which workers are employed and to implement the Workplace Code in their applicable facilities. When differences or conflicts in standards arise, affiliated companies are expected to apply the highest standard.

 

About the audits

The Fair Labor Association will conduct special voluntary audits of Apple’s final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China. A team of labor rights experts led by FLA president Auret van Heerden began the first inspections Monday morning at the facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City.

Tim Cook (CEO, Apple): We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers. The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.

As part of its independent assessment, the FLA will interview employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management. The FLA’s team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment.

Apple’s suppliers have pledged full cooperation with the FLA, offering unrestricted access to their operations. The FLA’s findings and recommendations from the first assessments will be posted in early March on its website, www.fairlabor.org. Similar inspections will be conducted at Quanta and Pegatron facilities later this Spring, and when completed, the FLA’s assessment will cover facilities where more than 90 per cent of Apple products are assembled.

In January, Apple became the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association. The FLA conducts independent monitoring and verification to ensure that the FLA’s Workplace Standards are upheld wherever FLA company products are made.

 

The headache that comes from managing a million animals

According to Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou, factory workers are like, well, animals; and last heard he was looking for tips on how to herd them better from the director of the Taipei Zoo. The Want China Times quoted Mr. Gou, and the company subsequently issued an apology over the statements of its chairman.

Foxconn chairman likens his workforce to animals (Staff Reporter, Want China Times): Hon Hai has a workforce of over one million worldwide and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache,” said Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou at a recent year-end party, adding that he wants to learn from Chin Shih-chien, director of Taipei Zoo, regarding how animals should be managed.

 

You may also want to read: