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Apple's supply chain inspections criticized as 'paint jobs'

2012/02/18 19:52:17

Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) The current inspections at Taiwan-funded Foxconn Technology Group, Apple's major supplier, were simply "paint jobs," local labor rights advocates criticized Saturday.

Experts from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) began a special voluntary audit, at Apple's request, of Foxconn's policies and practices on Feb. 13, covering the group's China operations in Shenzhen and Chengdu.

"The results of the report will be debatable, as the FLA is known for its lenient code of conduct regarding labor rights," said Yang You-ren, a sociology associate professor at Tunghai University in central Taiwan.

The association which is funded by many large corporations has a tendency to be in favor of businesses, Yang told CNA in a telephone interview.

"What they're doing is trying to pretend that everything is going well," he criticized. "The association is a shield of multi-national companies."

According to New York Times, many labor advocates say the association, which was founded in 1999 by universities, nonprofit groups and American apparel companies like Nike and Liz Claiborne, has barely made a dent in improving working conditions.

Jeff Ballinger, director of Press for Change, a U.S.-based labor rights group, was quoted as saying the FLA "is largely a fig leaf," according to the report.

Youngie Wuo, researcher of the Taiwan International Workers Association, supported Yang's views, saying that the FLA has long been criticized for its ineffectiveness in eliminating labor abuses.

"It is nothing but a public relations strategy," Wuo said, adding that enterprises would trumpet how much they care about their employees once the report in favor of them was released.

Meanwhile, Hu Meng-yu, executive member of the Youth Labor 95 Union, pointed out that the key was the distribution of revenue.

"FLA's assessment cannot solve the meager appropriation of the profits Apple's supply chain can get," Hu told CNA.

This not only happens in China but also in Southeast Asian countries, he added.

Even though Auret van Heerden, FLA's president, said Thursday "Foxconn is really not a sweatshop," and its "facilities are first-class," it does not mean that the employees there are able to or have the time to enjoy them, Hu said.

Apple's suppliers have pledged full cooperation with the FLA, offering unrestricted access to their operations, according to an Apple statement issued on Feb. 13.

The U.S. consumer electronics giant launched the initiative in response to recent concerns over labor practices and reported abuses in the Chinese factories of its suppliers.

The FLA's findings and recommendations from the first assessments will be posted on its website in early March, while similar inspections will be conducted at Quanta and Pegatron facilities later this spring.

Once the inspections are completed, the FLA's assessment will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled, the consumer electronics giant said.

(By James Lee)