Foxconn, the massively criticized Chinese manufacturer that produces signature Apple products, including iPhones and iPads, announced today that it will be raising worker salaries between 16 and 25 percent. (However, this is not unprecedented. According to Reuters, this is the third pay raise since 2010.)
Foxconn is not part of Apple, but it is intimately tied to the world's most valued technology company. And it's possible that it was moved to act by an outpouring of criticism following a New York Times exposé, including more than a quarter million signatures on a petition demanding safer working conditions. In a press release, Mark Shields, who initiated the petition, said, "It would still be great to see Apple use some of its hallmark creativity to issue a worker protection plan [to prevent] the injuries and suicides that have marked new product launches to date." The worker protection plan is one of the main conditions of the petition.
It's not clear yet who will be paying the wage increases and if it will affect product prices, but Apple contractors have little leeway given what the tech company pays them, claim critics. "Apple will sit down with them and say 'you’re allowed to make X profit,'" said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of SumOfUs, which assisted the organization Change.org in gathering signatures for the petition.
"Apple is enforcing these super-thin margins on their suppliers and then saying this is their code of conduct you have to follow," she added in a Feb. 8 interview.
Foxconn claims that it already has been paying salaries higher than the minimum wage in China. And even critics such as Li Qiang, founder of advocacy group China Labor Watch, say that while insufficient, Foxconn's working conditions are better than many other Chinese manufacturers' conditions.
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