Friday, August 18, 2006

Apple admits excessive iPod hours

File under, Hey, I love my Mac and my iPod as much as the next person, but...!

and creates the iCowpod,
boosting the economy
as well as
the sales forecast for Apple Computer!

Think this is farfetched?

Apple admits excessive iPod hours

Apple iPod
The iPod is the world's most popular MP3 player
"Apple Computer has said a report of labour conditions at its iPod plant in China found workers did more than 60 hours a week a third of the time.

Staff making the world's most popular MP3 player also worked more than six consecutive days 25% of the time.

Apple said the hours were "excessive" and said its supplier would now be enforcing a "normal" 60-hour week.

The California-based firm said its report found "no evidence of enforced labour" or use of child workers."

OK, does anyone here want to sign up for a "NORMAL" 60 hour work week? Because you know they would do it here if they could. So what is the real problem here?

A report in England's "Mail on Sunday"alleged the plant's workers make roughly the equivalent of $100 per month and often worked 15-hour days, showing photos of dormitories where workers, mostly young women, sleep 100 to a room, and of stark cement buildings from behind high chain-link fences that resemble what we in the West call prisons.

Is the problem that the working conditions are so bad, the hours too long? Is it that Apple allegedly was slow in investigating these claims, perhaps hoping that the furor would die down?

Is the real problem that China and many poor nations have a gross oversupply of non-skilled labour? Lack of education? So when the only choice for poor Chinese women is working in horrid factory conditions or working as a prostitute, what are we to do?

If we boycott the product, does it help these workers? If we all write and demand that Apple and other corporations begin to set better working conditions, does this make a difference?

Will corporations begin to treat workers in poor countries better when their eye is on the stock price and short-term gains? What creates change? Tell me, how do we solve this moral dilemma? What helps poor workers pull themselves up when there is no bootstrap?


At 6:13 AM, Blogger bluegrrrrl said...

"No evidence of enforced labour". Nice. Maybe nobody is forcing these young women and other workers into slave labor, but American corporations certainly are stepping right up to exploit them. It seems to me that the problem cuts deep to the core of American values. We want our products dirt-cheap, and we don't care how that happens. Corporations want mega-profits, and they will do anything to get them. Hard to resolve a moral dilemma when so many people have such a stake in the immorality of the process.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger DivaJood said...

Out-sourcing - happens in clothing, shoes, electronics, on and on - all for the US market, known for conspicuous consumption.

We are over-wired; over-clothed; over-fed; over-everythinged except in the areas of international awareness, compassion and tolerance. Then we have our collective heads in the sand.

Great post, Glenda.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger betmo said...

am i not doing my part because i don't own any apple products? i think it is about racicism, classcism, and capitalism. white folks tend to dominate corporations and they have historically racist and classicist. the bottom line in the black- pun intended- is all these capitalists think about. since forever. only when people start believing that we are all a part of the human race- will things change.

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Blueberry said...

Except for the difference in pay and the absence of the the work-camps, corporations do the same thing in this country too. When I worked for a big-3 automaker doing assembly, we worked 9 hours a day, 6 days a week with 1 Saturday off per month, and that was with a strong Union! It was mandatory. The aerospace company regularly worked us 60 hours, and up! Other corporations I have worked for were similar. In these cases it was expected but "optional", you were likely to be laid-off if you one of the ones turning it down, and layoffs came regularly. My spouse at the time was a retail manager who worked 10-14 hours a day, 6 days a week and more than that during back-to-school (no days off in August at all!!) and pre-Christmas... 70-80 hours a week all the time. It was not optional.

Many people work through lunch these days. Lots of them don't even take their vacation days. Workaholism is a disease (one that I am dealing with personally... trying to recover) and the corporations love that one. I have learned that giving your life to a corporation will leave you wrung out and wasted, but with a gold watch. It's amazing how many people I know are headed down that path with blinders on.

Check out that video "The Corporation". Excellent! Warning though, it will piss you off.

At 7:31 AM, Blogger JBlue said...

One problem is CORPORATE GREED. The few at the very top can enjoy Jimmy Buffet concerts at private parties, while the masses slave away and get screwed. It doesn't have to be this way.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Sothis said...

Disgusting. I agree that they would do the same thing in the States if they could. It's a global problem--people in the Western world want their gadgets and nice clothes and creature comforts and are willing to ignore the suffering that causes other human beings. The twisted little detail they all forget as they outsource everything is that as they drive wages down by sending jobs to cheaper labor markets, they are strangling the very market that buys their products. But the bottom line and corporate greed are all that matter to these people. Disgusting.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger glenda said...

Exactly. Agree with you all. Many are already working these hours, thanks, meant to say that.
I think this trend will continue as worker's rights go down the toilet.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger charlie said...

I don't have the answer to any moral dilemma, Glenda. I only know that change, historically, comes form the barrel of a gun (Mao), real or metaphorical

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Time said...

Unions, labor laws, and fighting back helped us reach a level of sanity in the workplace. The death of the unions is creating what blueberry described.

Again we have forgotten the lessons of our past. Worker exploytation, riots, and death before we got decent working hours and benefits. Now those things are disappearing.

These things that American workers forced on corporations, did not kill capitalism.

Our standard of living is dying. Partly because of competition with this kind of world workforce; but mostly because as our grandparents and great-grandparents had to fight and suffer, our generation seems unwilling to make the same fight.

Lets stop lowering our standard of living, and start raising the standard of living of the workers of the world.

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous earl bockenfeld said...

Here is why the iPod factories sound like a prison to me:

* Workers live in dormitories on the site, 100 to a room, arriving with a few possessions and a bucket to wash their clothes. The accommodation may be free, but it comes at a cost no one outside the plant is allowed to visit the workers.

* 'The job here is so-so,' Zang Lan says. 'We have to work too hard and I am always tired. It's like being in the army. They make us stand still for hours. If we move we are punished by being made to stand still for longer.

* Police not security guards are stationed on all gates, studiously checking those entering and leaving the site to thwart rivals intent on industrial espionage.

* 'We have to work overtime if we are told to and can only go back to the dormitories when our boss gives us permission,' says Zang Lan. '

American companies used to treat people this way, but conditions improved. You have to give credit to labor unions for that, as much as we love to criticize unions. I can't imagine there's any hope of China progressing beyond the current conditions, given the totalitarian state and the abundence of willing workers.

Question for the readers and any engineers out there: how much touch labor would you expect to be in an iPod? The Mail article says the parts in a $149 iPod Nano cost about $75. How much labor content is in there, I wonder?

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Don't have one, don't want one, won't buy one.

At 4:38 PM, Blogger M.D. said...

60 hours a week? Time for a letter to Apple.

Why are giant corporation so heartless?

I'd pay more for the iPod if it would stop abuse of the people who work for Apple.

If they don't stop the abuse, I'm not going to buy another one.

If there is no alternative because all manufacturers of these devices abuse their workers, I will go without.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger fallenmonk said...

There is very little labor cost in any of the iPods. I would estimate less than 20% of the cost is in assembly and testing. I would bet that more cost is associated with packaging and marketing that in actual assembly.

If we had an unbiased marketplace we could vote with our dollars and not buy products whose manufacture we did not like. In earlier days the culprits would get the market signals and change or lose.
Nowadays with the short product cycle the market doesn't have time to work. By the time a product reaches the density that will generate sufficient complaints it is already end of life amd not economic to invest in a large support effort.
The only solution now is to vote with dollars and hope for the best.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Frederick said...

Hell, i can remember doing 60 hours a week right here in the good old U. S. of A. in a lumber mill back home in New York.

...and that was just out of high school (90's).

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite a few angles have been skilfully covered by now but, may I add another one for your concideration.

Chinas has been going with an unprecedented growth the past couple of the decades wich has greated the biggest mass exodus in the world's history from backward villages to huge cities. The gap between the poor countryside and mainly the eastern mega cities is huge. Farmworkers are not needed but ever increasing need for labor in manufacturing seems to be able to swollow anything. Choices for an average villager boils down to this; stay and starve or move and survive.

The paradox is that China, despite it calls itself a communist society, is a country totally void of safetynets and if you don't work you die. In this light even a sweat shop starts looking good although hardly acceptable. I suppose we are witnessing the largest social engineering effort with biggest number of people involved in it, so, there is bound to be mistakes made but I have a feeling that China and her people will be winners at the end.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous pekka said...

Sorry, the drivel above is unfortunately mine!

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Grish said...

I have a normal 6 day work week with 56 hours a week but then again I bring a little more home than $25 a week ... and have no life because of

At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Adorable Girlfriend said...

No, the solution is to not buy goods like iPod at all. Look at Wal-Mart. They are reporting losses. I cannot help but think folks like myself who saw the Wal-Mart movie, visit frequently and have told everyone we know to go to Target or other stores, or better yet, support local business and work with the owner to get a fair price, are leading to their demise. Selling anti-semitic books and being waited on by cross wearing associates is not my idea of a good time. I do not however blame people for wanting to keep their bugets in tact. I blame the gov't for that and the low wages we recieve.

Everyone wants a bargain, but the high price of low costs is too much!

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Rory Shock said...

bring em to the next shareholders meeting ... great post

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