iPods and Labour Ethics: China

Podcasting News has reprinted the full text of Apple‘s recent statement about shabby labor standards at an iPod manufacturing facility in China). It’s an interesting read for people (like me) who are new to Apple’s “Code of Conduct” for their supply chain. A crash course in global labour inequities lurks under the surface of this, to be sure.

While Apple found

that employees worked longer hours than permitted by (its) Code of Conduct, which limits normal workweeks to 60 hours and requires at least one day off each week, …

…Apple is committed to the highest standard of social responsibility in everything we do and will always take necessary action accordingly. We are dedicated to ensuring that working conditions are safe and employees are treated with respect and dignity wherever Apple products are made (emphasis added).

I’m not a household name computer company competing in the global consumer electronics industry, but from a labour perspective, framing the 60 hour work week as progressive is, well, a significant historical error.

I also doubt that workers can experience any quality of life on sixty hours a week (sometimes more) at minimum wage in China. By any account, it’s hardly the “highest standard of social responsibility” a company could adopt, even in 1926, let alone 2006.

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