18 August 2006


Regular readers here may remember my recent rant about the newspaper that would have been pleased for us all to live in a Nazi state.

Well, yesterday, Apple published the results of it's internal investigation into Foxconn.

You can read it yourself. You may of course choose to disbelieve it, or you may choose to decide that the failings identified were indeed very serious and that the article was justified. I've already seen the BBC's choice of headline on the story "Apple admits excessive iPod hours".

And that is about the worst of it, really. No child labour, no enforced working, generally good conditions, and generally happy workers. Excessive hours maybe a problem, though it seems this country of ours took until just a few years ago to adopt a working time directive measure - a law that really was about worker safety and public safety. But, let's just put the "excessive hours" in a different context. What was the single biggest complaint from the workers?

It was that there was not enough overtime available at non-peak periods! While Western minds may think that a successful outcome is that the excessive hours will be reduced, I guarantee that will not be the same mindset amongst the Chinese.

So, essentially (if we are to believe Apple's report - and they have a lot to lose if it's not true), the substantive claims behind the Mail on Sunday's article were not true. But without them, let's face it, the story would have been MUCH less interesting and barely publishable.

I wonder if the workers the Mail on Sunday SHOULD have focussed on were those working at the Chinese Sony/Dell battery-manufacturing facility?

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Anonymous said...

I guess the demand for overtime is related to the relatively low hourly rate?

In Norway, for example, everyone is on a (relatively) high rate and works (relatively) short hours.

Anyway, I'm a little sceptical about the effectiveness of the working time directive in this country. A friend of mine is working for a large call centre; three days on, three days off, 12 hour shifts. How can you have a stable lifestyle with that sort of work pattern?

At the other end of Europe, my girlfriend, a Bulgarian, is working in a hotel on the Black Sea Coast, and expects to work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. Or more. Which is really too much.

The point of all that, I think, is that excessive hours are not good. And that what happens at Foxconn is not all that different from what's happening in places much closer to home.

I wonder what sort of hours the hacks at the Mail on Sunday are working?

Ian Hobson said...

Hi Stephen
Yes, you're right, excessive hours are not good - though that is something we have to let the Chinese economy sort out over time (I'd rather bang on about more important human rights there).

I think it particularly ironic that the Mail NEVER supported the working time directive - it is after all a nasty EU thing! How dare we tell our bosses to limit what our workers do! Yet that appears to be the worst thing in the case!