We’ve reported frequently on the abusive labor practices and suicides at Apple’s Foxconn factory in China. Essentially, Apple outsources the production of its iPad and iPhone to a massive labor facility in Chengdu, China.
On the plus side for Apple, labor costs at the Foxconn factory are low, with worker schedules and logistics rigorously enforced. Apple not only gets production accomplished on a strict, no-questions-asked timeline, but it also benefits from China’s undervalued currency and rampant industrial subsidies.
However, one has to wonder if Apple ever sees the overall costs of using a demoralized Chinese workforce while conducting quality control from 7,000 miles away as really worth the effort.
For starters, Apple could produce the iPad in the U.S. We explained this recently, pointing out that labor costs are not a major component of Apple’s production. Plus, U.S. manufacturers are far more productive and efficient than their Chinese counterparts.
So what to make of the latest news coming out of Chengdu, that dozens of workers at the Foxconn plant were arrested in the wake of riots against security staff?
Apparently, a clash with security staff at a male dormitory for Foxconn workers escalated to the point where as many as 1,000 workers eventually rioted. While the initial dispute may have dealt with an incident of theft, what becomes clear is that the workers are unhappy, and the chronic poor treatment they’ve endured has heated tempers to the boiling point. In the ensuing riot, workers reportedly threw trash bins, chairs, pots, bottles, and even fireworks from the upper floors of their dormitory, destroying public facilities.
Hundreds of police officers eventually suppressed the rioting, and dozens were arrested.
In the wake of such a messy situation, Apple can do the requisite damage control. But the true costs of outsourcing once again become apparent.
Facts are stubborn things, and the poor overall working conditions at Foxconn are hard to hide. Apple could have a much cleaner conscience if it chose to reshore operations and starting making their products in the U.S.