Thai workers looking – with hope – to Apple

By Chi Liquicia

Apple may have no direct links with Thai industry or labor but the U.S. computer giant has singled out Thais as one of the most victimized groups of contract workers in the world.

Migrant workers from Thailand and other parts of Asia at a December 2011 march in Taipei protest inhuman working conditions. Among their requests: days off. (Reuters/Sheng-fa Lin)

As today’s Bankgkok Post points out, “Apple has taken heavy criticism in the past couple of weeks. The company is one of the most profitable in the world, but its profits come from the sweat on the brows of hundreds of thousands of workers, mostly Asian. While the iPhone, iPod and iPad sell millions of units a month, many of the workers who assemble the products cannot afford to buy what they make.”

All of this – and the very unfortunate remarks of Apple supplier FoxConn’s CEO at the Taiwan zoo – have kept Apple’s PR team scrambling.

The timing in some ways could not be worse for Apple, which on January 13th released its sixth report on “Apple’s Supplier Responsibility.” Foxconn’s “animal” workers will surely appreciate that Foxconn implemented counseling at Apple’s behest. But Apple also acknowledges where its suppliers have failed to meet its expectations. And it looked closely at how its suppliers treat their workers – mainly people on contract from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Apple takes special aim at recruiting fees — extortionate charges workers pay to get jobs working at factories. Those fees can mean that theses workers amount to little more than bonded labor.

The Bangkok Post for one is applauding Apple. “Apple’s attention towards Thai workers is most welcome,” it says in an editorial. “One hopes this important and powerful company will do  what the government should have done long ago. Charging workers recruitment fees should have been abolished  long ago.”

But not all the comments are so positive about Apple…

Straight to the Source