Apple has a strong track record of auditing suppliers and assembly partners. And in recent days the firm has sent in investigators following reports of poor working conditions as a manufacturing facility in India.

The facility in question is one of many owned and operated by Foxconn, one of Apple’s longest-standing assembly partners. The site in question is responsible for the final assembly of various iPhone models sold in the Indian market and across the Asian continent. Apple was first alerted to the issues following an independent report from Reuters.

The factory employs over 17,000 people and strike action was taken by the employees following a mass outbreak of food poisoning. This was seen by many as a final straw. Some 250 employees required medical intervention. The workers quickly began to organise following this incident citing poor labour conditions.

Apple was unhappy and the factory was shut down by bosses for several days. Both Apple in addition to local government investigated the plant. Apple has placed the factory on probation forcing it to remain closed until Foxconn makes the required changes to rectify the worker’s complaints.

“Apple will ensure our strict standards are met before the facility reopens.” 

Apple via TechCrunch

Apple has worked with Foxconn for many years, most famously in China. And this isn’t the first time the company has had to deal with substandard protections and conditions for workers at its suppliers. As far back as the Steve Jobs era, Apple was dealing with problems with Foxconn. Sadly these conditions even included several workers committing suicide. Apple has treated each incident of workers rights violations with extreme diligence and seriousness but it can’t watch each factory 24/7, 365 days a year. And unfortunately for Apple, the company can’t handle its own final assembly. Even if Apple wanted to, India has local competition laws that punish foreign companies with crippling tariffs for importing technology products from abroad. The only alternative is to manufacture in India.

The bigger conversation behind stories like this comes down to local laws and workers rights. Governments and employers in around the world have a responsibility to ensure robust regulations are in place that protects workers from poor working conditions. Apple is just one company that these factories produce for. But they aren’t responsible alone for the way their suppliers treat their employees. It needs to be a collective effort.


Featured image: Clayton Cardinalli via Unsplash

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