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Low wages, long hours for iPod factory workers

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Monday, June 12, 2006
News Categories: iPod

The UK’s Mail on Sunday has published a report (not yet available online) that offers a look inside the Foxconn-owned iPod factories in China. Macworld UK says the newspaper’s report reveals that an iPod plant in Longhua houses 200,000 workers, who work 15-hour days for $50 per month. The workers reportedly live in dormitories that house 100 people each, and that outside visitors are not permitted. The Mail reports that the iPod nano is made in a five-story factory that is secured by police officers. The article also says that workers at an iPod shuffle factory in Shanghai are housed outside the plant, and earn $100 per month—but that they must pay for their housing and food, “which takes up half their salaries.”

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41

I have personaly been into a factory like this, not with electronics, and not in china, but a sweatshop is a sweatshop. In Honduras there are a lot of factories, who produces clothes in freetradezones to mainly your marked, the american. I have spend one month traveling in centralamerika studying these factories, so called Maquilaes. Also i have made a documentarymovie that documents my visit.

I visited a factory that produces Polo-Tshirts for Wal-Mart, it was horrible! More than thousand workers sitting in a hot huge hall for 11-12 hours a day sewing. Doing the same simple part of the shirt all day long, every day, all year.

They worked for a salary of about 1-2$ a day, with prescribed overtime every day. No healthinsurane. No pauses. No right to organisation. A work that killes them!

I am angry to hear you comment this with “yeah, but everybody produces like this”... YES thats right, an that makes OUR problem even bigger.

The reason that workersconditions in these countries is like this is because nobody in the consumerscountries cares about it. In centralamerica the regional countries and US are in these month signing a freetradeagreement called CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement). This agreement elliminates the workers right, or their way, to complain about their conditions. Makes it even harder than it is today. It cuts down every toll on in- and export, witch created bigger competition, witch is good for you in the US, since you have money to subsidy the farmers in your country (just like we do in the EU, sadly!!!!). This makes it imposible for the countries in Centralamerica to make anything different and better than it is today.

I was horrified to realice this truth, and I and other of my fellow travelers have now started a organisation to mae awareness of these problems specialy with clothes production, but as i started. It doesn’t care if it is iPods in China or T-shirts in Honduras, it is exactly the same problems we are facing, and the same hands we are hurting.

Posted by Andreas on June 12, 2006 at 11:39 PM (PDT)

42

Andreas, you make the assumption that this is a problem of some sort.

Ask yourself honestly: - assume all the manufacturers who are in CountryX due to low wages were instead to close those factories and move to other places where they pay higher wages. Are the CountryX workers who have lost their jobs then better or worse off? If they’re better off, why don’t they just quit their current jobs.

Posted by m.s. on June 13, 2006 at 4:04 AM (PDT)

43

to m.s. and others.

Stay ignorant and believe in your little bubble. People don’t quit jobs if they have no choice.
The real problem is that the Western world only focuses on trade treaties, human rights are only mentioned when cameras are on.
Why is this story important? Because in recent years consumers have earned more power.
Should do apple do something about it? Well if your building costs per product is lower than your ad cost, they should at least be made to think about it.

Posted by Maze on June 13, 2006 at 4:28 AM (PDT)

44

I did a bit of research… and found an article:
http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=165&story_id=12004
Someone with a univerity degree earns between 1’500 an 2’500 Yuan! Average Salery in Shanghai is 1’100 Yuan.
1 Yuan = 0,12 USD (today’s exchange rate)

So I think it’s quite fair for people in production to get 100 Dollars.
And as mentioned… many people in western econemies also spend half of their salery for housing and food.

I heard that china has been told already to set the exchangerates to a realistic level…
But that would destroy their advantage.

And I really would not consider China “third world”. Third world (if the word was still used nowadays) is rather a country mainly depending on agriculture

Posted by jumping-blueberry on June 13, 2006 at 6:39 AM (PDT)

45

“In the end, though, it will be China that has the last laugh. In a couple of years when China decides they want to cash in all those US bonds they have been amassing in the trillions, and an already cash-strapped (because of Bush, now in the trillions) US has to pay for them, the US is fooked.”

Nope.  The US simply will not pay them. period.

Posted by icantpod on June 13, 2006 at 9:37 AM (PDT)

46

to M.S:

No the workers have no choice! They can only try to keep their jobs, since they have no alternative! But that does by no means justify that they have very very bad workers conditions. That is only you and me in the consumers countries that has the choice. I do not say that you should not buy iPod’s or clothes for that sake, but we should try to improve everybodys life by trying to pull the companies into better directions.. ‘Course in the last end it will benefit us all! We are a global sociaty!’

I see it as the only alternative that there should be global law on productions. That made it law that workers conditions should be the same in the country that orders the product (the consumers), and the country that produces it (in this case China or Honduras)

Posted by Andreas on June 13, 2006 at 10:09 AM (PDT)

47

“Nope.  The US simply will not pay them. period.”

Ummmm…. and that’s when China closes it’s doors, and everyone in the US collectively raises their hands and says “Whahappened?” as the US implodes. Realize that controlling approx 85% of the assembly and manufacture of all the US’s products gives you one BIG bargaining tool.

Posted by Warren Piece on June 13, 2006 at 10:26 AM (PDT)

48

“Realize that controlling approx 85% of the assembly and manufacture of all the US’s products gives you one BIG bargaining tool.”

The need our business just as much, if not more.

Posted by icantpod on June 13, 2006 at 10:47 AM (PDT)

49

So what?
Many of us in the United states also spend half of ou wages on food and housing.

cry me a river.

Posted by Undisclosed on June 13, 2006 at 3:37 PM (PDT)

50

You apple fanboys crack me up.  Apple is as evil as any corporation, and the better they do, the more evil they become. Power corrupts, and all that.

Posted by kokketiel on June 14, 2006 at 4:55 AM (PDT)

51

“Many of us in the United states also spend half of ou wages on food and housing.”

ohh yes… but do you have to work any hours of overtime with sometimes no payment, and do you get no pause at all all day, for a 12 hours workday? Do you do the same routine 5-1000 times a day? Do you feel that you have no choise but try to keep your job, no alternatives, although you are getting discriminated, and have no rights of complaints?

Posted by Andreas on June 14, 2006 at 6:03 AM (PDT)

52

$50 bucks a month means your are middle class, the 100 bucks a month is meaning your rich

Posted by Andrew on June 14, 2006 at 7:17 AM (PDT)

53

“I don’t think this report is fair. While I understand your point, flatline, I think that if they are going to discredit ONE company’s use of cheap labour, they might as well discredit them ALL. Not that I defend them, but Apple is NOT the only company that uses cheap chinese labour, there are way too many to name.”

fair has nothing to do with it.  two wrongs don’t make a right!  every ONE that can be named is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

Posted by rgone on June 14, 2006 at 2:09 PM (PDT)

54

Is it right for someone to work in a sweatshop day after day with few rights and fewer alternatives - No.  Is it part of an overall cycle changing from a rural/agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy to a service economy - Yes.  Can we avoid some of the worst “atrocities” - Yes, if we work at it.  For those of you “outraged” at how things are manufactured in China and other countries, how many of you have boycotted WalMart?  How many have written to companies complaining about their manufacturing?  How many of you have written letters to the editor of your local newspapers?  How many have taken an active role in changing the status quo?  If you don’t anything but complain, then shut up.  If you are doing something…. starting an organization…. starting a campaign… doing anything, then let others know how they can help.

Posted by BillClinton on June 16, 2006 at 9:23 AM (PDT)

55

As i told you before, I and some friends have here in Denmark resently startet up an organisation regarding this problem. We call our selfes “¡Paytime! -Fair Trade Clothing” and are working on a new alternative to existing companies, and at the same time as an offer til the existing companies to get alternative productionmethods.

Our website is http://www.paytime.dk (sadly only in Danish still), but we are starting up an import in Denmark of clothes from a coorperative in Honduras, own by the workers themselfes. Check their website at http://fairtradezone.jhc-cdca.org/ and give us an email if you have any comments to paytime[at]paytime.dk

Posted by Andreas on June 16, 2006 at 2:00 PM (PDT)

56

correction wink The coorperative is in Nicaraqua.

Posted by Andreas on June 16, 2006 at 2:05 PM (PDT)

57

The article in question is so biased, it is laughable. First of all, it is clear the reporter is getting most of the information and numbers second-hand. He should have worked harder and dug for written proof.

Second of all, US$50 is not an illegal salary in China, especially in Longhua. Why doesn’t the reporter mention this? Too lazy to research the laws of China?

Third, it is stupid to compare the salary rate in Longhua versus Shanghai, same as it is stupid to compare salaries in New York city versus those in Podunk, Kentucky.

Fourth, it is nonsense to find something sinister in the fact that outsiders are not allowed into company-run dorms. This is simple safety and security. ALL company dorms in China have the same rule.

Fifth, the factory is controlled by “police”? Hard to believe. More likely it is secured by a private security force, most of which wear uniforms that make them look like policemen.

Why shouldn’t it be secured anyways? Of course, there is a huge potential for internal theft of the nice little i-pods that fit so easily in a workers pocket and can be sold for big money on the street.

On, and on, and on…

In general, this argument about poor third world countries being abused by working for low wages is complete rubbish. I know China, and I can 10000% guarantee you that the living standards in China as a whole have risen dramatically over the last 20 years due to the money earned from these production lines.

Of course, in rare cases, there are abused workers in China, the UK, the USA, etc. These problems should be addressed. But simply throwing out numbers such as “US$50 per month!” is just pandering to the ignorance of the readers.

Posted by An American in China on July 4, 2006 at 6:08 PM (PDT)

58

It’s not about defending Apple. It’s about pointing out that the conditions aren’t as insane as some people would like to depict them.

We have to remember the difference between the RMB and the USD. Listing their wages in USD or whatever currency (it’s in a British newspaper) is simply not an equitable comparison.

The equitable and honest way of identifying their wages (as about 361 RMB) was not applied here. Some people are trying to force their biases on others.

Objectively, even 361 RMB doesn’t seem like a lot. But the cost of living is kept to a minimum for these workers, and having such a job is most definitely better than none. What would your alternative be? Fire them all and give the jobs to the Americans? That would lower profit, decrease productivity, and harm existing workers.

Posted by Frederick in Canada on January 24, 2008 at 9:11 PM (PDT)

59

who cares if they get $50 a month! Like someone else said on the postboards they get about $400 a month! thats about what i make right now! Plus they get discounts in china for makeing the stuff!!

Posted by sports babe on March 25, 2008 at 10:58 AM (PDT)

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