Apple Tries to Minimize Damage from iPod Labor Fiasco

Aug 30th, 2006 | By | Category: General

iPod city

Apple said Wednesday it was trying to settle a lawsuit over reporting of unacceptable labor practices at a Chinese iPod. Earlier in the week, FoxConn, Apple’s supplier, sued the Chinese journalists that uncovered the practices.

Apple recently admitted that FoxConn violated Apple’s Code of Conduct. Unacceptable conditions included dormitory style sleeping arrangements for workers where employees were stacked on bunks three high; employee wage schemes were overly complex, making dispute resolution difficult; “normal” 60-hour work weeks were exceeded 35% of the time and frequent 7-days work weeks.

Apple’s supplier is suing reporter Wang You and editor Weng Bao for 30 million yuan (US $3.8 million; euro 3 million) in the Intermediate Court in the southern city of Shenzhen, which froze the journalists’ personal assets pending the trial.

The lawsuit is keeping the iPod labor controversy in the news, and Reporters Without Borders, an advocate for journalists’ rights, has asked Apple’s chief executive, Steve Jobs, to intervene.

“We believe that all Wang and Weng did was to report the facts and we condemn Foxconn’s reaction,” said Robert Menard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. “We therefore ask you to intercede on behalf of these two journalists so that their assets are unfrozen and the lawsuit is dropped.”

“Apple is working behind the scenes to help resolve this issue,” an Apple spokesman, Jill Tan, said Wednesday. She said she could not comment further.

Wang’s article and subsequent coverage prompted Apple to conduct a 10-week investigation into Chinese factories that make the iPods. The inquiry found that workers earned at least local minimum wage but also found multiple violations of Apple‚Äôs Code of Conduct, including pay formulas that were ‚Äúunnecessarily complex‚Äù, excessive overtime, and even humilating discipline.

Apple said it had found that more than a quarter of the employees worked more than was allowed by company policy, which limits work weeks to 60 hours and calls for workers to have at least one day off a week.


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