The impartiality of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) is being questioned after its president, Auret van Heerden, said the facilities operated by Apple supplier Foxconn are “first-class.”
Foxconn makes products for Apple such as the iPad.
The New York Times, wrote a report last month detailing injuries, deaths and intolerable conditions at Foxconn and other Apple suppliers in China. Apple came under fierce criticism after the report was published. Some called for a boycott of Apple products, but a serious boycott never materialized. However, online petition drives collected over a quarter million signatures. The petitions called for Apple to overhaul the workers rights programs at its suppliers.
Apple, who joined the FLA just prior to the report from the NYT, asked the FLA “to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” according to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The FLA inspections began two days ago. As we wrote yesterday, the inspections are expected to include thousands of interviews and visits to dorms, manufacturing areas and other facilities. The findings are to be published in March.
But apparently it only took two days for the FLA president to form an opinion. After his initial look over the plant, he told Reuters that the “facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm.”
During the interview Heerden spoke of the tranquility of the plant. Referring to the number of suicides committed by workers of the plant, he said “…the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory. It’s more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps.” He also stated that young workers from rural areas may need “…some kind of emotional support” and that the manufacturing plants did not realize that would be needed.
The apparently sympathetic tone taken toward the manufacturing plants has some questioning the FLA’s impartiality. The New York Times published a story yesterday which said the the FLA has been criticized as being “toothless and too cozy with its corporate members.”
In the story, the NYT quoted Scott Nova, the executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, as saying:
“The F.L.A. does some good work, but we don’t think it’s appropriate for them to call themselves independent investigators because they’re in part funded by companies. Independent monitoring means you’re generally independent of the companies.”
Apple has not responded to what Heerden said in the interview. Once the full report has been completed, which is expected in March, it is to be published at www.fairlabor.org.