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International attention to working conditions in the production of iPads and iPhones

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It’s time to bite into a fair Apple. This was the slogan of the international Action Day of makeITfair and GoodElectronics, which was held on 7 May. The global demand for iPhones and iPads is linked to problematic working conditions in factories in China. On the Action Day, consumers, activists and civil society organisations worldwide called on Apple to take the lead in the fair production of electronics.


Playful protests were organised across the world in the context of the Action Day. In the Netherlands, protests were held in Amsterdam and Utrecht. In Utrecht, makeITfair and Stoere Vrouwen, under the leadership of Ambassador Ms Gerry, organised a playful protest, in which people could win a fair ‘Apple’. In Amsterdam, Fairfood International and Rankabrand handed out fair trade apples and apple pie. PersepectieF (ChristenUnie young people’s group) organised a digital campaign. Thousands of consumers left cards in the Apple shops in Utrecht in Amsterdam, requesting fairly produced Apple products. Or they sent messages to Steve Jobs via Facebook, Twitter or the website. Political parties asked questions in the Dutch Parliament after this day.


Playful protests were also held in Guadalajara, Berlin, Budapest, Helsinki, Oslo, Taipei and Hong Kong. This resulted in a great deal of international media attention for the issue, with articles in The Guardian/The Observer, China Post, The New Zealand Herald, Der Spiegel Online, De Standaard and Vrij Nederland, among others. You can view photos of the Action Day in various countries here(opens in new window) .

What is going wrong?

The report Foxconn and Apple Fail to Fulfill Promises: Predicaments of Workers after the Suicides(opens in new window) of SACOM, describes the working conditions in the factories of Foxconn in Shenzhen, Chengdu and Chongqing in China. Foxconn is one of the world’s biggest contract manufacturers. Apple – market leader in innovation and design – is one of Foxconn’s most important customers. Many iPads and iPhones are produced at Foxconn in Chengdu. The report by SACOM highlights excessive overtime, unpaid overtime, misleading advertisements, institutionalised miscalculation of wages and wage increases which are often covertly linked to higher productivity requirements.

The report also refers to the problems of aluminium dust, found in the polishing department.On 20 May, an explosion occurred at the Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China.Three employees were killed in the blast, and 15 were injured.Government officials in Chengdu have stated that the explosion was caused by an inflammable material in an air duct in the polishing department.

In 2010, 19 Foxconn employees attempted suicide; 16 of them did not survive. A 20-year-old male employee recently committed suicide in Chengdu. In October 2010, more than 137 Wintek employees were poisoned while working with n-hexane, an extremely toxic solvent. Wintek makes touchscreens for iPads en iPhones. In their attempts to obtain reasonable compensation, the affected employees also wrote to Apple. Up to now, Apple has not responded directly to these requests.

Improving working conditions

In order to improve the working conditions at these and other suppliers, Apple can improve its purchasing practices by paying fair prices and applying realistic delivery times. Excessive, unlawful overtime must be brought to an end. Employees deserve a living wage. Apple must enter into dialogue with local and international labour rights organisations to improve the working conditions and manufacturers such as Foxconn and Wintek.


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