Apple Inc. has teamed up with Foxconn, the Chinese supplier of iPhone and iPad devices, to improve the labor conditions in its manufacturing facilities. Both companies are contributing funds, though its not clear if they are splitting the bill 50/50. Foxconn plants, known for various questionable practices including employing underage workers, and underpaying and likewise overcharging workers to live in on-site dorms, prompting strikes and mass-suicidal behavior.
Foxconn Leader Terry Gou states, "We've discovered that this (improving factory conditions) is not a cost. It is a competitive strength - I believe Apple sees this as a competitive strength along with us, and so we will split the initial costs." The news comes not too long after a reported salary bump of 16-15% for Chinese workers. Junior-level laborers still make next to nothing, at roughly $3,500 per year, but the raises were significant comparatively, and likely a significant PR push. Below is a video describing a Chinese Foxconn plant:
Surely everything was ship-shape for the day of filming, and doesn't appear to be much different from what goes on in the U.S., except for the discrepancy in pay, where forced overtime can also be the norm. Alas, forced overtime here might not constitue forced overtime in China, where some workers that the Foxconn plants need it just to get by in the dorms. It's been said that plant workers sometimes work over 60 hours a week, and sometimes for over 11 days in a row.
Still, in a quite sobering slice of real life, there is a legitimate chance that Apple will actually be contributing to the installation of better suicide nets to catch the Foxconn employees who jump, after too many iPad assemblies for next to nothing.