23:13 PM

Apple: iPod factory has a few problems but is basically doing a heckuva job

By Richard Koman for SiliconValleyWatcher

Apple has completed its investigation into alleged mistreatement of workers at its Chinese iPod plant and found the Chinese company was working employees harder than Apple rules allow. Other than that, there is no child labor or forced labor, the company said. In the official report on the Apple website, the company addressed several accusations.

Apple found no evidence of forced labor or child labor but was unhappy with the worker dormitories. Some of these, Apple said, were too "impersonal." Later, it is stated that "we believe in the importance of a healthy work-life balance." Are such touchy-feely sentiments a little out of place when dealing with the inherently inhumane work of snapping together iPod after iPod?

At Ars Technica, Jacqui Cheng note: "For a company like Apple who has a widespread reputation for being an environmentally and socially conscious company that even the hippest of hippies could love, it's extremely important for them to issue such a high-profile response to such accusations in order to save face with the general public."

Our audit of on-site dormitories found no violations of our Code of Conduct. We were not satisfied, however, with the living conditions of three of the off-site leased dorms that we visited. These buildings were converted by the supplier during a period of rapid growth and have served as interim housing. Two of the dormitories, originally built as factories, now contain a large number of beds and lockers in an open space, and from our perspective, felt too impersonal. The third contained triple-bunks, which in our opinion didn’t provide reasonable personal space.

Apple found that pay met local minimum standards but that the pay structure was too complex:

The pay structure was unnecessarily complex. An employee’s wage was comprised of several elements (base pay, skill bonus, attendance bonus, housing allowance, meal allowance, overtime), making it difficult to understand and communicate to employees. This structure effectively failed to meet our Code of Conduct requirement that how workers are paid must be clearly conveyed.

Employees worked substantially more overtime than Apple policies allow and Apple says workers were allowed to refuse overtime without penalty.

[We] found that the weekly limit was exceeded 35% of the time and employees worked more than six consecutive days 25% of the time. Although our Code of Conduct allows overtime limit exceptions in unusual circumstances, we believe in the importance of a healthy work-life balance and found these percentages to be excessive.

If anything, workers said they wanted more overtime. Lack of overtime was the number one complaint. The other major complaint was inadequate transportation between factory and dorms.