Quality Products International

QPI talks with Steve Jobs of Apple about Foxconn

by on Jun.04, 2010, under General News

Fortunately the crisis at Foxconn appears to have abated. There have been no deaths or controversial reports for about a week!

In addition to the appointment of mental health workers, initial indications of a 20% pay rise appear to have transpired into a 30% pay rise for the factory workers.

The Managing Director of QPI, Helmut Maertin was recently in correspondence with Steve Jobs the founder and CEO of the giant US high tech innovator Apple.

Concerned by the ongoing deaths at Foxconn, the team at Quality Products International recognized that their skills and abilities could be of assistance.

In addition to the standard “quality services” such as quality inspections, factory / social audits, lab testing, QPI provides in depth follow up services.

The QPI team takes pride in a professional, yet practical, hands on approach in following up on both quality and social / ethical / labour issues.

QPI has been on the ground here in Asia for over a decade. Our team provides a thorough combination of western and local experience.

In a prompt response Mr Jobs and his trusty iPad were quick to point QPI to their social audit information.

See: Apple Supplier Responsibility

Mr Jobs pointed out that it exceeds the standards, and that Apple has their own people in Foxconn on a regular basis.

Having reviewed the audit information we at QPI agree, it is an impressive document.

The diligence, thoroughness and foresight that has put them and their product range at the top of the IT sector is obviously reflected in their audit and corrective measures.

It shows that Apple is committed to emotional and physical welfare of the workforce assembling their products.

Mr Jobs also indicated that Apples own people are on the ground in the factory at Foxconn. While we do not know how long they have been there, we would assume given the thorough nature of Apple, we expect they are skilled and talented people who have been there for some time.

The two questions that naturally follow this are:

1. Why has the system failed?

With such a pro-active approach from Apple how did the situation get so out of hand?

2. What could QPI do?

What could a company like QPI, or any other third party do to mitigate the circumstance.

Why has the system failed?

Truth is we do not know.

We have followed closely, both from a professional and social stand point, however our last appointment within Foxconn was approximately 7 months ago. None the less press coverage has been extensive, we have spoken directly to a number of people “involved” and traffic on Chinese Micro Blogs such as Sina have been extensive.

Certainly there is a lot to suggest the management style of Foxconn is somewhat draconian and oppressive. It is certainly no sweat shop. They have some very facilities for their workers, however there is both direct evidence and abundant stories of heavy handed policy regarding policing / security as well as management.

Many public responses from Foxconn management gave the strong impression that they were taking steps to address the symptoms rather than engaging with the problem to reach a real resolution.

What could QPI do?

More than anything it brings in some third party objectivity. The culture within Asia of factory owners focusing more on profit than people, reflects most other industrialization phases in history.

This is often more the case when factory owners may view the workers as less refined or as an under-class due to ethnic, cultural or social differences.

The challenge that Western buyers face, is the balancing act between ethical social corporate responsibility and efficient manufacturing volumes / costs.

Third parties like QPI can bring a more objective approach, balancing the interests of the factory, the client and social standing of the factory workers.

The solution is not always simply a liberal stance of giving the workers all they hope and dream for. QPI has seen many factories that on the face have much worse conditions, and lower pay compared to Foxconn!

That message would appear trite coming from the factory management, but may need to be conveyed on the journey to identifying the underlying issues to address to lead to a positive resolution for all concerned.

Companies such as QPI can bring a fresh approach to an established status quos. Very importantly, where necessary we can test the boundaries in negotiations with factory management while insulating the western clients such as Apple damaging the relationship with the factory.

Apple and the other major clients appear to have had a clear influence on the management of Foxconn finally taking the matter seriously and making changes.

While we applaud Apple and other responsible manufacturers, we remain concerned that it may be little better than a “Windows Update”!

That will depend on how much real change will carry through the management levels at Foxconn.

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