back to article Apple is making life terrible in its factories – labor rights warriors

Pressure from Apple to lower costs is driving worsening conditions for workers at the company's manufacturing partners. This is according to watchdog group China Labor Watch, which says [PDF] that under CEO Tim Cook, the Cupertino giant has asked the companies that assemble its products to cut their own costs, and those …

  1. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Pint

    It's OK. They are selling less and less each year.

    This is a problem that will disappear soon.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      That's exactly what is worsening the situation - they care so much about the "shareholder value" (aka their own stock options and the like...) they have to squeeze more money out of less sales. You know, when you earn just some billions is not enough....

      1. SeymourHolz

        If you own an Apple product, then you are the problem.

        There is no reason for Apple to stop doing this as long as people consume products produced by these business practices.

        Your fork isn't making you fat, your behavior is. Change your behavior, change the outcome.

        1. gerryg

          Re: If you own an Apple product, then you are the problem.

          The OP is absolutely spot on, it's not Apple, it's their customers

          A few years ago, a right-on journal "New Internationalist" tag line "People, Ideas and Action for Global Justice" ran an issue complaining about four first world issues affecting the developing world:

          exploitative Intellectual Property practice, environmental pollution, workers rights and the other one (copyright Monty Python) - tax?

          natch all four of these can be laid at the door of Apple

          On the back page they were proud to announce that the journal was now available as an Apple app

          A letter to the editor calling them out (published, in all fairness) elicited the response "customer demand"

          A further letter asking if they had evaluated whether the total effect of what they were doing (tag line v promoting poor first world practice) was positive or negative went unanswered

          1. FIA

            Re: If you own an Apple product, then you are the problem.

            "The OP is absolutely spot on, it's not Apple, it's their customers"

            Oh, don't be daft, it's not Apple customers, it's all of us, or at least anyone capable of reading this comment. Companies like Pegatron are huge, they don't just abuse labour to make Apple kit, and they're not they only company doing it.

            From the article: "Specifically, the group reports that Pegatron has been passing on financial pressures from Apple by committing multiple violations of Chinese labor laws on fair pay and workplace safety."

            That's the issue. While companies are allowed to flout local labour laws this will continue to happen, and there's not that much we can do about it. Sure we could all stop buying products made in the far east, which would probably cause the western economies to collapse, along with the far easter economies too. This would just make the situation worse, not better.

            Over time the rights of workers across the globe will slowly equalise, and at that point it won't be cheaper to manufacture goods and ship them half way across the world, but until that day comes there's unfortunatly very little that can be done other than continuing to highlight the issue.

            But don't pretend that we're not all guilty of perpetuating it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If you own an Apple product, then you are the problem.

              You keep believing you aren't part of the slave labour problem....

              Delusional much???

            2. gerryg

              @FIA

              I was commenting within the context of the article. I was not expressing a world view nor pretending anything.

              While, broadly, I agree with everything you say, your use of a "straw man" rhetorical fallacy was unnecessary.

          2. Annakan

            Re: If you own an Apple product, then you are the problem.

            you are partly right but the trick always was to remove from "our/your" eyes the consequences of your behavior.

            You see the shinny product, you don't see the suffering, it is so far anyway, and one can rationalize "it was like this here before" (that's a lie but whatever).

            But how can we think that the same way earth resources are infinite, cost can go infinitely down and so on and so on.

            And it is not like just giving 10% more to suppliers would destroy Apple profits but it would make a world of difference to the workers (supposing some would be passed to them but lol)

            And the last fallacy about "customer demands" is that we would have a choice :

            Can you buy a smartphone not made in china ?

            Is google better than apple ?

            Sony than Microsoft ?

            Competition is a fallacy in the modern "capitalist" economy. There is no diversity of practices, sames rules leads to the same consequences, the destruction of rules lead to the same jungle everywhere.

            Civilization IS rules.

          3. Stucktrader

            Re: If you own an Apple product, then you are the problem.

            Actually, the problem is not the consumer, but wall street and the shareholders... If Apple took the company private... There would be no pressure to retain the profit margins they have at this point.

            The profits could be halved... But then they could also get rid of stock buybacks ($billions) and shareholder dividends ($billions).

            The consumers you speak of could choose another manufacturer... Their stock would balloon... Drawing interest from investors and pressure to continuously perform...

            Time for Apple to take the company private IMO. Their stock is one of the most manipulated and under valued of all time... Enough games regarding that... Time for Apple to focus on products and services instead of the pigs of Wallstreet

        2. ElsmarMarc

          Re: If you own an Apple product, then you are the problem.

          Were that it was only Apple... Apple gets hit in the news, but really - From clothes to small appliances, to all sorts of electronics. "Sweatshops" have been around since -- Forever... And are all around us today in every country to one degree or another. They just rarely are in the news.

          Not so very long ago, historically: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire

      2. Stucktrader

        Publicly Traded companies

        .... Face this type of pressure... Apple is by far not the first nor will be the last corporation to be in this position....

        The best thing Apple could do for these workers is to take the company private... Thereby, the company would not be pressured to keep their margins high. Outside of Apple and Samsung, no other smartphone OEM is making a decent profit.

        Say Apple slices (pun intended) their margins in half as a private company. Their would be no shareholders to answer to... However, whether these factories follow through with improved living conditions may be another story

    2. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      NS "...selling fewer and fewer..." [FIFY]

      "...disappear soon." How soon? Define 'soon'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'NS "...selling fewer and fewer..." [FIFY]'

        Not necessarily. The noun (or nouns) wasn't specified. What if it was merchandise?

      2. BillG
        WTF?

        Apple Customer Hypocrisy

        Amazing. When you see the iStuff commercials you get the impression that Apple consumers are kind, caring, sharing people with compassion for others. Are they really indifferent and too self-centered to care about how their cool iStuff is actually made?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exploit while you can

    Living standards are rising in China, and there's great upwards pressure on both wages and safety standards. Also the newly minted middle classes are increasingly concerned with the environment.

    The globalists are running out of globe to exploit.

    1. Darryl

      Re: Exploit while you can

      Nah, they'll just move on to India, Africa, South America....

    2. hellwig

      Re: Exploit while you can

      Eventually markets like the US and the UK will outsource so much work, they'll fall into a depression, and US/UK workers will then be the new cheap labor.

      I for one look forward to assembling Huawei phones for pennies an hour, living in company dorms that charge so much rent I'm not actually earning any money, all while some blowhard CEO in a turtleneck touts the wonders of the next cPhone (china-Phone), cPad, cPencil, cEnema, etc...

      Wait, did I say "look forward to?" I meant I'll be jumping out the nearest window. Hopefully they didn't put up any nets to keep me from falling to my death.

      1. earl grey
        Flame

        Re: Exploit while you can

        I'm not so sure it was the jumping as it was the undocumented "assistance" they got going out windows and off roof-tops.

        Anyway, with the billions of dollars that iShit has stashed away in their offshore accounts, i'm not too worried about their shortfall of profits from the mega-billions to only billions.

      2. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: Exploit while you can

        I meant I'll be jumping out the nearest window.

        Nt, nt.... You are not allowed to destroy Company's property. We value our resources and are committed that all of them maximize their input for the success of the Company.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Exploit while you can

        "charge so much rent I'm not actually earning any money,"

        Lol - parts of the U.K. Already do this...

    3. IT Poser

      The globalists are running out of globe to exploit.

      While it is only a small minority some globalists, myself included, primary reason for reducing trade barriers is specifically to improve standards of living in other countries. Cheap tat is nice but eliminating absolute poverty is priceless.

      1. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        Re: The globalists are running out of globe to exploit.

        IT Poser "... eliminating absolute poverty is priceless."

        Yep. The best 'foreign aid' is trade. And, as you state, it's generally working.

        Governments do need to manage the transitions better. Evidence suggests that their incompetence is complete.

      2. naive

        Re: The globalists are running out of globe to exploit.

        5 thumbs up for this, it is incredible people take this kind of non sense.

        Reducing trade barriers only served to increase inequality. We are now at the mercy of a few 100 billionaires who move factories around with the push on the send email button, moving whole generations of people into unemployment and poverty, sucking the life out of trade balances and ruining the whole financial system in the process because generous lending was used for decades to hide what is going on.

        Priceless are societies where people have matters in their own hand, where media and politicians are not bought up by the 1% owning 90%. So yeah, go vote for Hilary if you want to end up as slave for the 1%.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who honestly expected a different outcome?

    When has Apple ever shown measurable dedication toward improving the well-being of their suppliers? Every year there is a new story about worker exploitation. Apple engages in some hand-wringing, issues a boilerplate response, then they release a new iPhone or Mac and everyone forgets what happened.

    What kind of a message are we sending Apple when we berate them for making poor labor choices, then buy their products anyway? Why should they care when they're still taking our money?

    If you're still buying Apple products then you're a part of the problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who honestly expected a different outcome?

      Where's the hand wringing over other companies? They're ALL doing this. Heck, Samsung was sued because unsafe conditions resulted in dozens of workers DYING in one of their chip fabs, and that was owned by Samsung using Samsung employees. Where do you think Dell, IBM, Microsoft, et al are making their products?

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Where's the hand wringing over other companies?

        17 upvotes for whataboutery? Nice critical thinking guys!!

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Where's the hand wringing over other companies?

          The problem is many companies are using 3rd world sweat shops for their manufacturing. Some of these places are in countries that allow worse conditions than China; not excusing China or the manufacturers. So it is easy to claim the high moral ground while in reality being part of the problem. If one is to avoid 3rd world manufacturing one is going to find very few sources for consumer goods.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Where's the hand wringing over other companies?

            And consider how horrible the conditions were in US factories a century ago, or UK factories before that. It is easy for us to get all high and mighty expecting other countries to have the same worker protection laws and enforcement we take for granted, because we've already "made it" economically.

            Western companies have been pushing China forward in that regard - granted, a lot of that is a reaction to bad publicity but a lot of companies want to "do good" even when they aren't being watched. The problem is, they also want to get a good deal since that's why everyone is in China in the first place, so there's a conflict. As the regulations increase and worker salaries increase, production will move to cheaper countries with lax laws that will follow the same path of worker exploitation which lessens over time. A lot of real cheap labor (making clothing etc.) has already left China because their workers make too much money now.

            We've already done this once for the consumer electronics market...remember when cheap crap was made in Japan, and then eventually it became quality stuff is made in Japan so the cheap crap went to China. China's still fighting the "cheap crap" reputation but they're probably a decade away from casting that aside and having a reputation for quality stuff. And as a result the companies making cheap crap will start using factories in Vietnam or Philippines or something (some already have, Samsung has factories making their low end phones in Vietnam)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Where's the hand wringing over other companies?

              Between Japan and China there was also Hong Kong and Taiwan. Stuff from those places was once very crap indeed. Oh, and Korea.

              1. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: Where's the hand wringing over other companies?

                "And consider how horrible the conditions were in US factories a century ago, or UK factories before that. It is easy for us to get all high and mighty expecting other countries to have the same worker protection laws and enforcement we take for granted, because we've already "made it" economically."

                The point is that these companies are moving production to these countries explicitly *BECAUSE* they don't have any worker or enviromental protection laws. Not having to protect or renumerate their employees to any reasonable standard is why they are cheap. Because they are cheap is why they mercilessly laid off their western employees who made the company what it is, and hired cheaper foreign labour.

                If you are going to have a minimum wage and working conditions in your own country then you need to ensure that the same conditions are in place on foreign staff or your simply committing a nasty form of national suicide as your own economic base gets eaten out from underneath you.

                While multinational companies are somewhat less dangerous today than they were in the days when the East India Company literially owned most of a sub continent outright I submit that multinationals are still at best a menace.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who honestly expected a different outcome?

        Didn't mean to exclude the other big companies, it's definitely pandemic.

        Let's try this: Name a company that doesn't fall under the oustourced labor abuse umbrella.

        Pi Foundation? Anyone else?

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Wot! Oh, there must be an iThing about to be announced

    These reports seems to appear just about the time the Fruity Company is about to release a new iDevice on the unsuspecting world (rumours apart)

    Not saying this is Apple's fault or not but don't Pegatron make stuff for other US companies as well?

    Besides, wasn't there a report (Here i think) about Pegatron replacing all its workers with Robots.

    When that project is complete what will these people have to complain about?

    somehow I doubt that this report will stop an Apple devotee/disciple from buying the next itteration of the iPhone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wot! Oh, there must be an iThing about to be announced

      They'll complain that evil Apple pushed their suppliers to use more automation and because of that fired thousands of workers with no severance pay and not even any bus fare home.

  5. TWB

    Marketing opportunity

    Dell, IBM, HP, Acer, Samsung, Asus - this is your chance to say how great you are and how you don't exploit the workers (indirectly) at the plants which you use to manufacture your stuff in China.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Marketing opportunity

      Well IBM won't. They're well and truly sucking apple's cock at the moment.

    2. WAMBO

      Re: Marketing opportunity

      Not really, because ALL of those companies that you listed use Pegatron to make products for them. ALL OF THEM! Funny how that's not mentioned at all. Apple does not own Pegatron, they use them to make products like all these other companies do, yet the blame goes to Apple? Another biased report.

  6. Bad Beaver
    Meh

    Ahh, glorious past…

    I remember, long long time ago, when I bought my first PowerBook. It was made in Ireland. What a gem. Turned out to be kind of expensive despite being the low end model on sale. It has those hot-swap bays so you could pop out the CD-ROM drive or battery. Today, those bays are gone. Too much blood would seep out, I guess.

    Alas, where is the alternative? And would anyone be able to afford it?

    1. Daniel von Asmuth
      Unhappy

      Re: Ahh, glorious past…

      What ever happened to Steve Jobs and his dedecation to simple and expensive products?

  7. Jurassic
    Devil

    Uh, hello!?!

    Dear Mr. Register, your article makes no sense at all, and unfortunately the author is clueless.

    The fact is that Apple DOES NOT own or run ANY factories.

    Apple has its products assembled by contracting to the same "factories" that also assemble products for many other companies, including: Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, and MANY, MANY other companies.

    Those foreign factories are owned and operated by other companies. The client companies that have their products assembled there are only clients.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Uh, hello!?!

      I wondered how someone's thinking could be so 'limited', so I looked at your previous posts. They are all about Apple and supportive of Apple and Apple products, often in a sarcastic way. Are you an employee or just a fanboi?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Well, in his defense, he is using the Spawn of Satan icon.

        It might be sarcasm.

      2. nijam

        Re: Uh, hello!?!

        > I wondered how someone's thinking could be so 'limited'...

        Nonetheless, if labour laws are being broken, it is by Pegatron, not Apple.

        Apple products are the end result, but why does the report of the employment violations not go straight to the local (or national) government, rather than trying to guilt-trip us into self-righteously applying pressure on Apple to apply pressure on Pegatron? Seems rather flaky to me.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder when the Chinese peasants will finally rise up?

    It surely will be a sight to behold!

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: I wonder when the Chinese peasants will finally rise up?

      There have been numerous labor riots across all industries over the last few years but it's only been reported on back page news.

    2. razorfishsl Silver badge

      Re: I wonder when the Chinese peasants will finally rise up?

      Ever been to China?

      guess not......

    3. Schlimnitz

      Re: I wonder when the Chinese peasants will finally rise up?

      I think they have risen up, and consider that working in a factory - even in these conditions - is still better than being a peasant.

  9. Lee D Silver badge

    The devices with the HIGHEST PROFIT MARGIN on the market?

    Yeah, I can't think where else they could cut corners to reduce prices.....

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      "Yeah, I can't think where else they could cut corners to reduce prices....."

      How about the components they use? I have an original iPad Mini and I can say it is absolutely the shittiest WiFi support of any device I own, and this is counting cheap android phones, pocketbook e-readers, crappy Chinese webcams, and that Vonets thing hooked to my Pi. All of them can outperform the iPad.

      The range of the iPad is about half of everything else, and when the signal drops out I need to actually get up as the bloody thing simply won't see the AP again until it is practically line of sight.

      I didn't buy the iPad (won it in a competition), but I know how much they cost and I really didn't expect Apple hardware to get its ass kicked so utterly by everything else.

      You may have been making an allusion to the infamous rounded corners, but having used one I'm wondering what goes in them.

      But, then, I guess cheap labour and cheap pieces in an expensive device equals happy shareholders...

      1. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        heyrick "...iPad Mini... ...shittiest WiFi support..."

        You're holding it wrong.

  10. sikejsudjek

    About 80 people own 51% of planet earth. Put another way, we're all half as well off as we could be if they didn't exist. Of course its good that we're worse off, because the alternative would be that we were commie bastards and we don't want that. I'm looking forward to automation when they can own 99% of planet earth. They will surely deserve every penny, and I hope that even my modest wealth will trickle up to them to show how hard working I am.

    1. Adam Foxton
      WTF?

      You're absolutely right. In the whole history of socialist and communist endeavour there has never been a very wealthy ruling class sucking up all the wealth, nor have there been famines, shortages and brutal suppression of groups- entire ethnicities- who don't stick closely enough to what the State says.

      No, wait, I got that backwards. They ALL ended up with an oppressive bunch of rich 'elites' at the top, with massive nepotism and old-boys-networking. And with the state owning rather more than 99% of the are they're in power over.

      Automation wouldn't be bothered with as manpower becomes cheap and expendable. This is why the Soviets beat the Nazis back in WW2- they just threw millions and millions of their soldiers at the enemy, many without training or equipment, and stood another line of troops behind /them/ to stop the first lot retreating.

      Or outside wartime, lets use the Great Leap Forwards which killed 45 million people and lead to a few people getting very very rich.

      So yeah, lets all be commie bastards and hand the world over to our masters who will treat us like shit and run the country into the ground. Let's do that, because it sounds like such a fucking great idea.

  11. Dieter Haussmann

    Get rid of Tim Cuckold - AKA Paul O'Grady.

  12. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Holmes

    "Apple is the real reason working conditions are deteriorating."

    Let's also add the rest of the companies putting pressure on factories to lower costs. It's never the manglement/stockholders of the company nor the factory owners who get to take home less pay.

    Icon ---> It's just one of those moments.

  13. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    WTF?

    Those kids

    World's most profitable tech company finds declining demand for its aging premium products. It must be the factory's fault.

  14. MR J

    New President!

    Cant wait for a new president that is wiling to bring these jobs home.

    Most Americans would love a job, even if it pays $1.62 an hour.

    #BRINGHOMETHESEJOBS

    1. Geoffrey W

      Re: New President!

      $1.62 an hour? Even if you worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I generously allow you $2 an hours,that's only $1344 a month. Unless you live in the most remote places in the country where accommodation is minimal do you really think that's a living wage and that citizens with functioning minds are going to accept that sort of shitty wage? I suppose since you would have no time to spend it and would have no need of a home since you're at work all the time, then you just buy dinners and amphetamines and keep on till you drop dead. I'm afraid Mr Trumps promise of jobs is yet more fairy dust being blown in the eyes of his followers and they are set to join other mirages like a wall built by Mexico and water for California. I fail utterly to understand the appeal of this transparently fake shoddy business man and can only conclude that they are putting something in the water that makes people vote against their own self interest like this. I guess all the years of underfunding education are paying off for those in charge. It'll end in tears, I just know it. Fun to watch if it wasnt so damn ugly.

      I cant help wondering if there is sarcasm involved in your post (its well hidden if so), but what the hell, cant resist another minor rant at Trump and his idiot minions.

      1. VinceH
        Facepalm

        Re: New President!

        "(its well hidden if so)"

        No, it isn't.

        It really isn't.

        1. Geoffrey W

          Re: New President!

          RE: ["(its well hidden if so)"

          No, it isn't.

          It really isn't.]

          OK. Hands up. It wasn't obvious to me at the time. I had doubts but I still enjoy a rant at Trump whenever possible so went ahead anyway.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: New President!

        "that makes people vote against their own self interest like this"

        Sounds like brexit. It ought to be pretty obvious by now that there's no "deal" with Europe (Canada style, Norway style, Swiss style) that is better than the UK's current place (unless your definition of "control" involves being a part of rules you can no longer influence), yet May keeps on about "brexit is brexit" for a non-binding referendum and one of her ministers is now talking about scraping the human rights stuff that the UK originally helped set up (possibly totally unaware that this would imply quitting the Council of Europe, never mind the EU).

        This and Trump. It's enough to make a person wonder if a recent flu season carried a side effect of making people stupider because I'm at a loss to explain why people would believe such rubbish and then believe more vociferously when the lies are exposed. It's almost as if brexit is some sort of surrogate religion.

        1. graeme leggett

          Re: New President!

          "Brexit means Brexit" is a convenient phrase used to keep the Leavers happy that there won't be any backsliding on what they voted for.

          That the Leavers individually voted for a myriad of different things, some of which are at odds with things that other Leavers voted for, means that it is a phrase with no real meaning.

          I expect to hear it used right up to the point where it is announced that some sort of compromise has been achieved which isn't actually that Brexitty but is just about tolerable to the Remainers. Or when it is announced that global circumstances have changed such that Brexit has to be deferred but 'This government remains committed to carrying out the expressed will of the nation etc etc'

        2. naive

          Re: New President!

          It is not the flu. It is unemployment, no prospects on improvement, rising taxes, elimination of the middle class orchestrated by softly smiling politicians telling us "Take away trade barriers", "Allow free migration of labor", " If you don't agree with me you are a fascist.."... in short liberalism, which is probably as bad for us as communism, if not worse.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: New President!

      Keep the shit jobs overseas. Fund STEM programs and build up the next generation to design everything, invent new technologies and become an intellectual mecca. Let the other countries squabble over the pennies they'll earn making our stuff while we enjoy $100k+ salaries while sitting in a nice cushy office working 20 hours a week.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: New President!

        One of the problems with your idea is that many of these countries have huge populations and good educational systems. Using China and India as the obvious examples, either of these countries have more University graduates than the USA, possibly more than the USA and Europe. So, do you think that designing systems won't, doesn't, take place there? That doesn't include the rest of Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, or Africa.

        Globalization And Free Trade were sold to us as a way of off-shoring low skilled jobs and building the economies of underdeveloped nations. This, of course, has been pushed far past this goal post, either by design or corruption. Without the government regulation of the 50's, 60s and 70s, in North America, most of those jobs don't even greatly benefit the people of those nations.

        And, of course, much of the work done in those nations undermines, or potentially undermines, the security and thereby the sovereignty of the nations exporting the jobs and work to these underdeveloped economies. All this done in the chase for the next quarters positive profit margin by corporations with the clout to legally subvert the taxation systems of the countries where they make their profits and thereby diminishing the security and sovereignty of those nations.

  15. spudmasterflex

    Thoughts

    Having personally visited many of these mega Chinese factories over the past few years in Shenzhen I was in awe just how bad the conditions are for many.

    I can't go in to specifics or supplier for several reasons but I will say the following.

    Seeing young women and men working in 43-45 degrees C heat pulling plastic parts from a injection moulder then cutting off the excess material with a bare blade for a pittance wage in conditions that I would describe as hellish.

    I basically had free roam of the 6.4 km2 buildings although assisted by our guide, I saw from the very top of the building where the electronics are made in nice air conditioned rooms by people in clean suits to the very bowels where the cases are fabricated.

    I like many other businesses am guilty of buying these products from our supplier and haggling for a reduction in price, on the flip side my clients want a low price here in the UK, If I were to source the same items from the US, or European suppliers (of which there are a few) I wouldn't have a business to run here in the UK.

    1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

      Re: Thoughts

      From the OED:

      Awe - A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder

      If the well-being of your business relies on another business treating employees badly, perhaps it's time to get out of that business.

      1. spudmasterflex

        Re: Thoughts

        Think you are missing the point slightly.

        The purchases I make aren't small cheap objects they are in the $70-80k range per item.

        My company along with all the big players in the same business all source their products from the same company or group of companies so we have a very limited choice in our supply chain.

        I get your last point, however I could say the same thing probably about most of the electrical items you have at home.

        Is your TV viewing pleasure well worth the employees who suffer manufacturing your set worth it so you can sit on the sofa at night and relax?

        It's the same for pretty much all cheap and high end electrical goods that most of us use everyday.

        We are all guilty in that respect somewhere along the line, however a majority of people are happy to be blinkered in the belief that their shiny new gadget comes from a shiny shop somewhere in their home country.

    2. Richard Jones 1
      Flame

      Re: Thoughts

      While I have not seen the factories about which I fully accept you are totally qualified to speak, I have seen conditions here in the past which closely resemble those about which you spoke. Men (back then always men) driving crawler dozer devices over slag which had recently been tapped from a furnace. When you broke the surface it still glowed red hot as the blade pushed the 'rather warm' stuff about before it set solid. Or other locations where the machines proudly showed they had been built when Queen Victoria was still alive, hopefully you can imagine the rest of the conditions of the crumbling factories. Or see film of shipyard workers from when we built riveted ships, (there is a marker there to date when that was). Or casting iron products and knocking them out of the sand moulds before de-flashing them with a hammer and chisel or an angle grinder. Conditions were if anything worse and certainly no better.

      What has changed is we no longer do such things we let someone else do the work and take the risks.

      Your plastic parts maker is frankly ripe for a bit of automation, someone wrote of high earners designing goods in pleasant surroundings, fine. They should also design the production machine programs that will produce the damned things and let others do what we are still as a country trying to do, work in 'service industries', nice clean pressure free locations. Unless it is for example a fast food kitchen where the pressure is relentless, the temperature is high and the pay is still lousy. There are still loads of crap jobs going at minimum rate, which frankly need automating if we can train enough people to build and service the robots to run them.

      It was going to be 'the end of the world' when hand looms and hand spinning was automated. Now we have more workers than ever so don't try the old 'automation kills jobs' trick. Dumbly exporting work kills jobs that is true.

      I'll will make it simple, really poor management, poor pay and unskilled workers kills jobs faster than anything else.

      It will come to those who wait to be harvested.

    3. Diogenes

      Re: Thoughts

      spud,

      your observations match those of a friend who used to design shoes for a living. In the late 90s/early naughties ,he would spend weeks in the factory in China getting it set up to produce his creations.

      He described the factory much as you do... The "sneaker line" a bombed out ruin (bombed by the japs in WW2 !) , the machines under the bits of roof that remained, the workers out in the elements,. There was always a pot going in the dorm where a soup was being cooked, everything went into it, rats, pigeons, chicken, etc etc. The upmarket "leather line" was in a new building, but still dangerous conditions, Workers were "hot mattressing " to keep production going 24 hours. This factory produced shoes for many 'name' brands

      It had massive fences and gates - not to prevent the workers form escaping , but to stop desperate workes from getting in !

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: "stop desperate workes from getting in"

        And that is what needs to change before Apple (or anyone else) can stop cutting prices even more.

        China is on its way to wealth similar to ours. They are fast-tracking everything we did before : pollution, work conditions, the works. Check out a film about our Industrial Revolution if you wish to learn more - in those days workers who got their hands crushed, mangled or cut off by unsafe machinery were just fired, no compensation.

        We did those things. Now Chinese workers are experiencing the same. They will rise against it as well. Then it will be India's turn, then whatever else comes next.

        Ultimately, as in everything international, it is up to the local population to decide if they accept a given set of conditions or not. We can tell them about what we think they should do, but only they can decide to actually go about doing it.

        I'm all for Chinese workers to tell Apple & Co to stuff it and lock prices, but I know that then, Apple & Co will just take their business elsewhere (yay Capitalism!), so the workers will end up out of a job instead of having kept the little they had.

        What I really wish to know is how exactly is Apple going about getting its cost cuts. Is it calling them up and saying "How much further can you diminish costs next quarter ?", or is it - more likely I guess - "Cut costs by 5% next quarter or we move to India" ?

        It's the latter I would find disgusting - but not surprising.

  16. adnim
    Joke

    Apple makes life terrible for me too...

    I am sick of seeing "sent from my iPhone" adverts on emails.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Apple makes life terrible for me too...

      That just triggers my spam filter.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple is the evil that Karl Marx warned us about!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the communists

    Need a labour union

  19. Slx

    The issue is Apple is used as a whipping boy because it claims to be ethical and because it's a trendy, expensive brand. However, most of our consumer electronics are made in or their cheaper components are made in these kinds of conditions.

    Even products that are made in the USA, Ireland, UK, Germany etc etc all contain components and subcomponents that are likely sourced from plants elsewhere in the world that have poor labour laws.

    If you look at clothing manufacture, we think we're sophisticated in the West but a huge % of what we wear is made in sweatshops, out of sight and out of mind.

    I was browsing for kitchen appliances yesterday and ended up buying an expensive German washing machine but there were machines available for €219 ... How do you even buy the raw materials for a washing machine for that little money, do the design and pay someone to make it? These machines were very expensive once in 15 year purchases that were often put on HP payment plans in the 1980s, 80s and 90s now they're being bought for the price of a large supermarket grocery shopping trip and they're lasting barely a few years.

    The jobs that put money on the tables of families in places like Italy and parts of the USA making white goods on reasonable wages that supported reasonable lifestyles are gone and unrealistically cheap machines made with what amounts to slave labour have largely replaced them at the mass market side of the industry.

    The electrical and electronic waste cycle and abuse is absolutely out of control.

    Do consumers care?

    Nope! They snap up that vacuum cleaner for €59.95 knowing that it will be replaced with another one in a year if it breaks.

    I think to be quite honest Apple is just the company that people like to bash because of the brand image.

    It's the whole manufacturing sector that's doing this.

    Do you think Apple would have a business if they made iPhone in Cupertino or Cork and they cost $2000? When they made Macs in places like that they were EXPENSIVE machines if you work out the inflation to get a modern day price.

    We are expecting complex electronics and other goods made at totally unrealistic costs. It's a zero sum game and someone is losing and it's not the manufacturers' shareholders or the customers.

    Watch now as China becomes too expensive and the cheap sweatshops move on to their next "Efficient" destination?

    1. AJ MacLeod

      At least with white goods customers still have a choice; say Apple roughly equates to Dyson, we still have the Miele option.

      With higher technology, there really isn't a Miele option to choose from and that's the problem. I personally make a point of buying well designed and manufactured goods from the UK if possible (actually manufactured here, not just from UK brand names), failing which Europe or the US, even if the initial purchase cost is significantly higher.

      With the majority of high-tech goods, there is effectively no option - I couldn't care less what brand name is on the boxes, if Foxconn is making them anyway it makes no difference whether it's Apple or some unknown Chinese name on the outside.

  20. razorfishsl Silver badge

    a bit of washing in the dormitory?

    WTF are the workers expected to hang the cloths?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Automation

    Use robots. Then you don't need the workers!

  22. Slx

    It's going to take a lot more than one company to change this.

    There's a need to counter the slip back to the Victorian era in terms of workers' rights.

    That change needs to be driven politically. Companies are all only driven by their last quarter's results.

    1. graeme leggett

      Interesting on the Victorian era comparison.

      How do the Chinese workers facilitates, conditions and hours compare to the Victorian paternalism of Port Sunlight or Bournville?

      1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

        How do the Chinese workers facilitates, conditions and hours compare to the Victorian paternalism of Port Sunlight or Bournville?

        Not well, but those two places were the exception, not the rule. Most Victorian employers sweated their people to the max.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Recycled old apple fud ..

    This is old fud, there are a number of multinationals including Apple that has branded product manufactured in the same facilities. I mean isn't the Surface hardware made by Pegatron. Maybe if Pegatron didn't have to also pay the Microsoft Android tax they could afford to pay their workers more ref ref ref. Of course that doesn't feed into the agenda.

  24. john devoy

    So Apple are driving down costs at every turn but retail prices continue to creep up, all so they can hide more and more in their offshore accounts.

  25. Potemkine Silver badge

    Rolling in it

    Apple market value: around 500,000,000,000 $

    Apple financial reserves: around 260,000,000,000 $

    How could Apple be one of if not the most valued company on Earth if it didn't exploit to the maximum "human resources" when it can?

  26. Dan Watson

    This isn't an Apple problem. Is a West problem. Any Western product with 'Made in China' stamped on it's arse has been made by an exploited Chinese worker. Whether that worker was well paid (by Chinese standards) or not they've still been exploited for their cheaper wage. Smaller companies need to exploit the Chinese manufacturing market to compete with the big boys, the big boys have no excuse - they don't do it to make a profit, they do it to maximise their profit.

    The sooner US companies make their products in the US, the UK companies make their products in the UK etc then the sooner this exploitation will stop. Unless those countries scrap or lower their minimum wages to compete with the Chinese...

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      "The sooner US companies make their products in the US, the UK companies make their products in the UK etc then the sooner people will just buy a cheaper brand."

      There, fixed that for you.

  27. Wils

    The article and many of the comments have no understanding of reality:

    1) Infinite growth from a finite planet is impossible

    2) Doubling the population in 60 years is not sustainable

    3) Automating jobs does not increase the velocity of money

    4) Circa 100 families owning 50% of the world's wealth is a disaster

    5) To be in the 1% requires free and clear assets of > £600,000

    6) Feeding and sheltering seven billion people means a lot of poor

    7) 100 years of fighting wars over energy resources is not going to stop

    8) Constant development of gadgets and toys is not sustainable

    9) Inevitable economic deflation means the Ponzi will collapse.

    We can kid ourselves, but the fact is the whole thing is blowing up, no amount of hand ringing or denial will change this. The Brexit vote is just the first signs of the revolution that is coming. It isn't going to be pretty! Even depopulation using birth control means a massive "old generation" needs to be worked through. Logan's Run anyone?

  28. DerekCurrie
    WTF?

    Apple Has No Factories. Talk to Foxconn et al. Instead.

    Such is the perennial anti-Apple hate. Invent an extraordinary Foxconn factory suicide rate that was actually *lower* than that in the average Chinese public. Now blame Apple for Pegatron committing multiple violations of Chinese labor laws on fair pay and workplace safety.

    This is actually FUD isn't it. The point is to repeat over and over

    "Currently, Apple's profits are declining",

    "Apple's profits are declining"

    "Apple's profits are declining"

    Look, I did it for you. You can feel relieved that you've done your due diligence hating on Apple for the day. And you can also feel emotionally fulfilled knowing that you are in turn hated for foisting garbage into the minds of your readers. Isn't masochism wonderful. :-P

    Meanwhile, if indeed Pegatron is committing atrocities, you can expect Apple will stop it. That's what Apple does. I don't know of any other company who would bother to care. But you already know that, don't you.

    1. FuzzyTheBear
      Alert

      Re: Apple Has No Factories. Talk to Foxconn et al. Instead.

      They only care when public relations are a nightmare.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How the mighty are fallen.

    Apple don't own any factories. They sure as hell don't own Pegatron or Foxconn, yet they are the ONLY company in this field that is actually doing anything at all about the workforce conditions in these places by pushing for more inspections and higher standards.

    If the conditions are so bad, why are Pegatron TURNING PEOPLE AWAY AT THE GATES? Answer: because, despite the photos at the top of the article, the alternatives -- e.g. working insanely long hours in a rice-field in the countryside for far less money -- are far, far worse.

    The Register used to be a source of witty, sarcastic IT news. I used to read it religiously every day. But there's a difference between the witty writing of old, by well-informed, yet Britishly cynical journos who understood their beats inside and out, and the childish crap scribbled by someone whose job has been reduced to little more than click-bait bollocks like this.

    As we all know, Apple's kit has always had the vast majority of the market share in mobile, tablets, etc. Android must be languishing at around 20% or so as those manufacturers must be selling fuck all if their influence on Pegatron's practices is so utterly negligible. Oh wait... it's actually the other way round. Those cheap £70 smartphones? The £200 laptops? Yeah. Guess where those are made, and imagine the pressure on those margins.

    For fuck's sake, The Register: you used to be better than this. MUCH better.

  30. Aodhhan

    There's more to China than meets the government approved pictures/videos

    Yep, China has grown in huge leaps and bounds for about 20 million Chinese citizens, who live in the 4 largest cities. Unfortunately, these 4 cities don't encompass or reflect China as a whole or the other 2 billion citizens who live in very poor conditions.

    Stop and look at the forest through the trees, and only the pictures you are allowed to see by the Chinese government. People there are still very controlled by the government, who also controls what and where there is wealth. You can work hard there, build a very successful corporation... yet if someone in power doesn't like you for some reason or another, you likely won't own your business very long.

  31. Robert Moore

    Not that bad.

    My first apartment looked worse than that.

  32. Joe Gurman

    [Citation needed]

    Where is the proof Apple has been asking for lower manufacturing costs? From something a Megatron executive told Labor Watch? From something a factory manager said? (OI ask because I can't reach the PDF.) Have they asked Apple to confirm or deny.

  33. doke

    statistics are inadequate to draw any conclusion

    This report is based on too little data to mean anything, nor draw any conclusions. On page 1 of the pdf, "http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/upfile/2016_08_23/Pegatron-report%20FlAug.pdf", the report says "Pegatron is one of Apple's major suppliers, employing almost one hundred thousand workers in Mainland China". Most of the numbers in the report are based on paystub data. However, on page 5, there is a table showing how many paystubs they analysed. Over 10 months, they collected a total of 2015 paystubs. One month, Jun 2015, they got only 4 paystubs. The peak was 1064 in Oct 2015. The average number of paystubs they got per month was 202. That is only 0.20 % of the workforce. That is not enough data to be a worthwhile statistical universe.

    I have no doubt Apple is pressuring them to reduce costs. Conditions there might well be awful. However, I can't tell one way or the other from this study, because it's statistics are insufficient.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Take time out to consider the following - if undecipherable, suggest you question more:

    The notion that the solution lies at the point of purchase, with consumer revolt, while sounding nice enough, is bogus. We aren't about to all rise up and junk our Macs. It's truer all the time that until the exploited, underpaid worker at the point of production in China, etc. and the exploited, job-deprived worker at the point of job-exit and unemployment in the US etc. join forces against the real cause, the pursuit of profit by any means necessary by mega-transnational corporations who dictate the terms of employment, until monopsonists like Apple are successfully confronted, no change will take place for the better for any segment of the workforce...the workforce: that's virtually all of us. The so-called middle class has joined the slide.

    That includes what the mindless pursuit of profit is doing to our global environment.

    If that sounds Herculean, it is. But consumerist solutions aren't a substitute. We will just be hapless victims, all except the few at the top, to the downward equalization of the global wage rate, until both horizontal and vertical division of labor are overcome with the attainment of worker unity and a viable alternative to historically obsolete capital accumulation. To give up on that prospect as if the transnationals are forever invincible is to die internally while still gasping for breath externally. Who is the utopian in our plight? Certainly not the status quo-ers.

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