Monday, December 20, 2010

Apple's Dirty Big Secret- 21st Century Slavery

Oh damn it to hell. I hate to relay this story, because I have been a long time Apple and all "i-things" fan, but alas the story needs to be told.
The reason: The husband was thinking about getting me an i-thing gift item, but then heard this story on NPR about the suicide rate of the Chinese Apple i-pod, i-pad, i-phone mfg facility.
I came across this article, in the UK web site "DailyMail"- here are some excerpts:

Revealed: Inside the Chinese suicide sweatshop where workers toil in 34-hour shifts to make your iPod

Yet, amid all the fanfare and celebrations this week, there was one sour, niggling note: reports of a spate of suicides at a secretive Chinese complex where Jobs's iPhone, iPod and iPad - Apple's new state-of-the-art slimline computer - are built and assembled.
With 11 workers taking their lives in sinister circumstances, Jobs acted swiftly to quell a potential public relations disaster.
Stressing that he found the deaths 'troubling' and that he was 'all over it', the billionaire brushed aside suggestions that the factory was a sweatshop.

For, as Apple's leader was taking a bow on the world stage, the Mail was under cover inside this Chinese complex. And we encountered a strange, disturbing world where new recruits are drilled along military lines, ordered to stand for the company song and kept in barracks like battery hens - all for little more than £20 a week.(31.48 U.S. Dollars)
In what's been dubbed the 'i-Nightmare factory', the scandal focuses on two sprawling complexes near Shenzhen, two decades ago a small fishing port and now a city of 17 million people.
This is the epicentre of operations for Foxconn, China's biggest exporter, which makes products under licence for Apple using a 420,000-strong workforce in Shenzhen. They have 800,000 workers country-wide.
And as Jobs was speaking in San Francisco, new measures were being secretly introduced at Foxconn to prevent the suicide scandal from worsening and damaging Apple sales globally.
Astonishingly, this involves forcing all Foxconn employees to sign a new legally binding document promising that they won't kill themselves.
The document, a copy of which has been obtained by the Mail, states that all employees (or their dependants) must promise not to sue the company as the result of 'any unexpected death or injury, including suicide or self torture'.
The owner of this massive, highly controlled iPad and iPhone factory has also decided to install something he's dubbed 'ai xin wang' - which translates literally as 'nets of a loving heart'
In reality, these 'loving hearts' are 10ft high wire fences on the roofs and 15ft wide nets at the base of all buildings. The human traps are to prevent people jumping to their deaths and smashing themselves on the pavements below.
Alongside such physical impediments to suicide, hundreds of monks have been flown in to the plant to exorcise evil spirits. Shaven-headed and wearing long robes, groups of monks have been seen chanting and praying amid baffled, exhausted workers.
More than 2,000 social workers are also being recruited and emergency helplines set up. Anyone appearing mentally ill or stressed is being identified by a special 'spotters' team set up to keep tabs on the workforce.
Workers who fail to respond to the chanting monks or the entreaties of social workers are secretly shipped to Shenzhen Mental Health Centre, a private facility where there are several wards crammed with Foxconn employees.
With the complex at peak production, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the global demand for Apple phones and computers, a typical day begins with the Chinese national anthem being played over loudspeakers, with the words: 'Arise, arise, arise, millions of hearts with one mind.'
As part of this Orwellian control, the public address system constantly relays propaganda, such as how many products have been made; how a new basketball court has been built for the workers; and why workers should 'value efficiency every minute, every second'.
With other company slogans painted on workshop walls - including exhortations to 'achieve goals unless the sun no longer rises' and to 'gather all of the elite and Foxconn will get stronger and stronger' - the employees work up to 15-hour shifts.

Down narrow, prison-like corridors, they sleep in cramped rooms in triple-decked bunk beds to save space, with simple bamboo mats for mattresses.
Despite summer temperatures hitting 35 degrees, with 90 per cent humidity, there is no air-conditioning. Workers say some dormitories house more than 40 people and are infested with ants and cockroaches, with the noise and stench making it difficult to sleep.

After details of the Chinese suicides leaked out, and Jobs promised he was 'all over it', his Chinese partner announced that his workers would receive a generous-sounding 30 per cent pay rise, raising the basic wage from £90 to £120 a month.
Yet human r ights groups denounced this as a public relations sham, saying that the legal minimum wage was being raised by the Chinese authorities in any case.
Lu Bing Dong, 22, helps produce 21,000 iPhones daily in his workshop alone. 'The pay rise is actually stopping us making more money because now they are strictly controlling overtime,' he says.
'Foxconn are very smart - they say it's a pay rise, but we actually earn less. It's meaningless. They will increase the daily quotas [of products made] to make up for lost time.'
As we left the sprawling Foxconn complex, workers were putting cages on one dormitory block with balconies - yet another measure to keep workers from killing themselves.
'It looks even more like a prison now,' said a weary Lu, 27, returning from a 15-hour shift.
One can't help wondering how Steve Jobs, the billionaire Buddhist, manages to square Foxconn's activities with his belief in karma - that what you do in this life will be repaid in the next...