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Recently, Ines Kaempfer of the US Fair Labour Association (FLA), which is inspecting the Foxconn assembly plants used by Apple in China said that there was a moment for Nike in the 90s, when they got a lot of publicity, negative. And they weren’t the worst. It’s probably like Apple. They’re not necessarily the worst, it’s just that the publicity is starting to build up. They call it the ‘Nike moment’ in the industry.
Foxconn is one of Apple’s main contractors, said on Monday it had raised wages by up to 25% after a spate of suicides last year and reports of long hours for the hundreds of thousands of staff.
It is the second significant salary increase in less than two years at the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, where workers’ conditions have come under intense scrutiny.
The continuing reports of deaths and distress at Foxconn have created a PR problem for Apple, which is seen as the principal user of the company’s facilities. So far Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Dell, which also use Foxconn for assembly work, have not commented on their use of its factories.
None is presently a member of the FLA, whose membership is principally made up of clothing companies with suppliers in the Far East.
Foxconn, which has its headquarters in Taiwan, employs about 1.2 million workers at a handful of plants in China which are run with almost military discipline. Staff work for six or seven days a week and for up to 14 hours a day.
The workers assemble iPhones and iPads for Apple, Xbox 360 video game consoles for Microsoft, and computers for Dell and Hewlett-Packard. Foxconn is one of China’s largest single private employers.
Foxconn’s staff now receive 1,800-2,500 yuan (£180-250) a month after the pay rises that became effective from 1 February, the company said.
This is the way capitalism is supposed to work.