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Behind the Scenes Screens

TNCs or Transnational Corporations have formed a huge part of our economy. They
are large companies, which operate across a number of countries, with their
headquarters in developed nations, and franchises all over the world.
Apple is potentially one of the largest and most well known TNCs in the world, with,
as of 2013, over 600 million users and with more than 63% of American households
using an Apple product. The company has set up its headquarters in Cupertino,
California, and has, since its founding in 1976, branched out across the world to
developing and developed countries, setting up franchises in 16 countries, including
Australia. During the last quarter alone Apple made USD 7.7 billion and, until the
recent share split, had share prices of up to USD 800. However, the fancy, glass
covered, LED screens we have grown to enjoy cover up a dark secret that Apple
keeps under wraps from their consumers.
Apple has made a lot of money since the invention of the iPhone, but it should be
noted that the majority of Apple products are Made in China, despite being
assembled in California. Apple has factories in China, which manufacture parts for
iPhones, MacBooks, and other Apple products. However, through this, Apple has
been responsible for many unethical work practices, including poor working
conditions, and the use of sweatshops and child labour.
Pay Rates
The workers in the factories, which make parts for Apple, are sometimes not
respected in terms of the rights of employees. The problem is the fact that these
factories are mostly situated in China, which is a country with little quality control
and few inspections. According to Forbes, until recently, the wages at the Apple
supplier Foxconn were USD 1.50 an hour. Even now, the wage for workers is still
generally low on average, roughly 2000 RMB a month (a little more than USD 300).
Apples demand for secrecy has also caused a few problems in the past year. As a
result, any scandals to do with factory working conditions are usually hidden from
the public eye.
Working Conditions
In 2010, in an undercover reporting stint, a news reporter from China Southern
Weekly posed as a new employee. It was discovered that the working conditions
were not only extremely poor, but it was also discovered that the factory (Foxconn)
had manipulated the law to make these conditions legal. Workers worked almost 18

hours, stopping only to eat and sleep. Many workers, from having performed the
same task over and over again, had suffered carpal tunnel.
There is also an issue in terms of the working hour. While in America, an hour of
work includes a small, usually two to
five minute break, to allow for food,
Facebook and a bathroom break, an
hour in these supplier factories is 60
minutes. These factories usually do
not provide benefits or healthcare.
What is even worse however, is the
fact that these factories also make use
of low-paying child labour.

Figure 1: Pegatron factory chain

Child Labour
In the making of their products, Apple has seen the use of underage, and on more
than one occasion, underpaid, workers. In 2008, within all factories supplying parts
for Apple, a total of eleven 15-year olds were found working. More recently, in 2013,
Apples supplier report found that 11 of 400 factories supplying it had children
working under the age of 16, all of which
whom were recruited with forged identity
papers. This did not comply, and still does
not comply with Apples policy of not
employing workers under the age of 16,
or under the legal age in a given country.
Despite actions taken by Apple in an
attempt to prevent child exploitation, in
September 2012, a 15 year old worker
died of pnemonia, having worked 12
hours a day, six days a week.
Figure 2: Protests against the use of child
labour in creation of Apple products
By definition, sweatshops are factories with poor conditions and poor wages. Apples
suppliers include factories that demand long hours, do not allow for basic
employment rights, and pay much less than the minimum wage. Foxconn, a factory
supplying Apple, has attracted media attention due to dubious circumstances
surrounding a number of suicides in 2010. Under investigation, it was found that
300,000 workers were producing 500,000
iPhone 5S per day from Foxconns
Zhengzhou factory alone. Evidently, Apple
has been responsible for the use of
sweatshops; these workers work 12-18
hours a day, for what is well below our
standard of the minimum wage, with no
overtime, sick days, job security or
protection at work.
Figure 3: Foxconn Factory in Zhengzhou

Despite these horrendous costs, Apple has become a household name. Even the
minority of those who do not have an Apple product have heard of it one way or
another. As a result, our ability to communicate using software has been increased
by Apples omnipresence; we use Messages and other methods of communicating,
including iCloud and Facetime, all which have been designed by Apple. Apple also
has the subject of a few environmental problems, including non-recyclable plastics
and toxic products within the hardware.
As a TNC, Apple has become part of our daily lives, affecting everyone in the world
through one way or another. However, the cost of this fame has been huge, with
dozens abused in far off countries for the benefit and satisfaction of others. It is our
prerogative to ensure that employees are not mistreated, while still ensuring the
quality of products for the consumer.
Report compiled by Casper Lu - 2014