Apple finally admits to issues in it's supply chain, with the release of the Fair Labour Association (FLA) report on March 29, but identifying the problem is only a first step, Apple must rely on workers themselves to monitor the labour conditions in the production of its products, not on auditors alone.
CHINA/GLOBAL: After an investigation at Foxconn in Shenzhen and Chengdu, the Fair Labour Association (FLA) released its report on March 29, 2012, pointing out pressing labour issues at Foxconn. IMF Director for Electronics, Jenny Holdcroft commented on the release of the FLA report on BBC world news on Friday 30 March 2012.
"Meaningful long-term improvements will not be achieved until the workers themselves are able to negotiate a collective agreement that addresses all the rights violations," said Jenny, "auditing alone will never be enough. The FLA has so far audited three out of Foxconn's thirteen factories in China and Apple has 156 supplier companies."
The FLA report pointed out several pressing issues at Foxconn, including working hours, health and safety, industrial relations, compensation and interns. Foxconn is notorious for its harsh management methods, which is one of the factors that triggered the suicides in 2010. Still the problem of hash management and work pressure has been tactfully absent in the report and the gross violation of forced internship was not addressed at all.
Identifying problems at Foxconn will never be enough, any hope that conditions for workers will improve rests not on the work of auditors, but on the ability of workers themselves to monitor whether their labour rights are being respected and to push for remedies when they are not.
The FLA audit report commits Apple and Foxconn to give all employees a copy of the collective agreement but this is not sufficient, workers must be able establish a schedule of negotiations with the employer, which will lead to a collective agreement that covers all aspects of work including wages and working hours, overtime, and health and safety.