Last January, The New York Times published an “explosive” exposé of the harsh conditions to which workers assembling iPhones and iPads at Foxconn are subjected. Now, the renowned news organization has posted a follow-up report aimed at ascertaining whether the conditions have gotten better at Apple’s largest manufacturing partner.
Fortunately, the new report brings good news. Yes, the labor conditions at Foxconn have improved to some extent.
The report, which is the ninth part of The New York Times’ iEconomy series, is prefaced with an account of a Foxconn employee named Pu Xiaolan.
According to Pu, she used to sit on “a short, green plastic stool that left her unsupported back so sore that she could barely sleep at night.” Then, she was given a wooden chair, albeit with only a small backrest. Finally, though, she received another wooden chair, but with a high back she could comfortably lean on.
This seemingly trivial development, the report suggests, is actually indicative of the bigger positive changes that should be underway at the controversial manufacturing plant next year. These proposed changes are said to have been the result of a critical meeting held last March between Foxconn’s top executives and a high-ranking Apple official:
The companies had committed themselves to a series of wide-ranging reforms. Foxconn, China’s largest private employer, pledged to sharply curtail workers’ hours and significantly increase wages — reforms that, if fully carried out next year as planned, could create a ripple effect that benefits tens of millions of workers across the electronics industry, employment experts say.
Foxconn and Apple received considerable criticism this year for the infamously stringent labor conditions at the former’s factory. In addition to the aforementioned exposé by The New York Times, the radio show “This American Life,” also in January, helped incite criticism toward the two companies in a rather scathing episode. But, if you’ll recall, that episode was retracted after it was discovered to contain a number of fabrications.
In any case, it’s encouraging to know that some things at Foxconn have indeed taken a turn for the better, and that more improvements are yet to come.