Gone But Not Forgotten
- Aug 10, 2005
- Reaction score
Ignorance is bliss.
More at link.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/24/wintek-foxconn-chinese-labor_n_827288.html
Willful Ignorance: How Apple And Other Electronics Giants Gain the Benefits of Chinese Labor
Huffington Post. Yepoka Yeebo Reporting. [email protected].
Apple again finds itself under scrutiny about the treatment of workers in foreign factories, following disclosures that laborers at a Chinese plant producing iPhone screens suffered neurological damage from exposure to a toxic chemical.
Injured workers said they left the hospital before they fully recovered, and some were still suffering the effects of n-hexane, a chemical which, with daily exposure, may cause long-term and irreversible nerve damage. Earlier this week, workers told the New York Times that many were forced to accept compensation and resign after signing papers which absolved the company which runs the factory, Wintek, of liability. Wintek denied workers were pressed to sign the papers.
For Apple and other consumer electronics giants tapping the global supply chain, this sort of controversy has become familiar. Last year, Apple confronted a spate of suicides at a factory complex in southern China operated by a manufacturing contractor, Foxconn.
Apple has has portrayed these events as tragic aberrations, the result of departures from its strict labor standards by contractors. But many labor experts challenge that notion, asserting that a key reason so many manufacturers have shifted production to low-wage foreign countries like China is to gain the savings of a fundamentally exploitative mode of production, while largely insulating their companies from culpability.
Like many major consumer electronics brands, Apple relies on a network of foreign contractors to produce its products. Those contractors in turn farm out orders for parts and raw materials to a still larger collection of subcontractors. The big brands have strict official codes of conduct on labor standards, and they hire auditing firms to conduct inspections. But the number of plants involved in the typical manufacture of a single product such as the iPhone is typically so large that many avoid inspection. Plant managers are under such pressure to meet deadlines and deliver low costs that workers are often forced to labor amid dangers, and beyond legal overtime provisions.
Labor experts describe this process as essentially business as usual, with the suffering of workers amounting to an unavoidable byproduct. Brands such as Apple have managed to reap the cost savings and largely avoid blame through willful ignorance, experts add: they farm out production to contractors like Wintek and Foxconn precisely so they are able express shock and amazement when -- inevitably -- workers rights are violated or illness or death results.
How aware are multinational companies of possible safety violations in the factories they rely on to produce their goods? "A better question is how aware do they want to be," said Anna Han, a Chinese trade expert at Santa Clara Law School in California. "They don't have to see what they don't want to see, it makes it easier for them to walk away thinking everything is fine."
She was not accusing Apple and other manufactures of deliberately violating labor standards, but rather tolerating such breaches as an inevitable product of the global supply chain. By putting contractors in charge, they shield themselves from direct responsibility, she said.
"It helps them be ignorant," she said.