We all like a bargain. That pair of jeans that cost much less than expected. That gadget which appears to have gone down in price. In reality sometimes they are not bargains. It could be that the stock is sub standard and actually dangerous to use.
The again it could have been made by people or even children working in dismal conditions for a pittance of a wage.
China has a bad track record as far as human rights go. It is no secret. We the West are still trying to court China as we see it as an ever growing economy. One that could have the wealth to cure some of the western ills. In Europe officials are now looking to China to ease debt. We all know the truth about China and how it treats its people, children, women and animals. We tend to turn a blind eye when it suits us financially to be friends with China. Sometimes that is hard to do.
The latest reports of abuse centre around people in China making Apple products. Some claims of abuse date back to 2010. At that time 13 workers at a factory run by Apple supplier Foxconn committed suicide. The workers jumped to their deaths from factory rooftops.
The company involved was accused of wrong doing as far as working conditions went.. It was alleged that they ran military style sweat shops forcing employees to work long hours for no extra pay. Wages were also set very low.
The company manufactures a range of products for other companies also including Sony, Nintendo, Hewlett-Packard and Amazon. There have been other allegations. One of the company's huge factories has 200,00 workers. Another factory suffered a fire killing four people. There are also reports of chemical injuries to workers. All in all not a good, safe or healthy working environment.
Tim Cook who is now CEO of Apple has called in the FLA, fair labour association, to inspect the factories. He has said the inspections will be on a never before seen scale. It is hoped that they are unannounced inspections also. Any firm can clean up its act for a visit without making long term changes. Cook told the media, "We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we've asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers."
His arm was probably forced by the consumer activism website change.org which had over 200,000 signatures on a petition regarding Apple workers rights. None of this has to date affected the profits Apple are making. If in time it does then you can bet that Apple become committed to change quick as a flash.
The response of the Taiwanese-owned company Foxconn? It has added safety nets to prevent further deaths from jumpers but has yet to improve working conditions and pay.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog