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Foxconn: No Legal Action After Mike Daisey Story Retracted From 'This American Life'

Foxconn Mike Daisey

First Posted: 03/18/2012 11:52 pm Updated: 03/19/2012 10:38 pm


TAIPEI (Reuters) - Foxconn Technology Group, the top maker of Apple Inc's iPhones and iPads, is not off the hook after a U.S. radio show retracted a program critical of working conditions at one of its Chinese factories.

The Hong-Kong based China Labor Bulletin said Foxconn still employed harsh working conditions, while a fund manager with shares in Foxconn's parent said investors were watching how the company treats workers.

"The retraction has somewhat cleared Foxconn's name, but not all the way. The press and stock investors will continue to watch how Foxconn treats its workers going forward," said Simon Liu, fund manager and deputy investment officer at Polaris Financial Group's fund unit in Taipei. The unit owns share's in Foxconn's parent company, Hon Hai Precision.

"Obviously, Apple is starting to take serious step asking Foxconn to properly treats its China workers," Liu said.

The radio program "This American Life" last week retracted the episode, saying it had contained "numerous fabrications".

Foxconn said on Monday it had no plans to take legal action although the program had hurt its reputation.

"Our corporate image has been totally ruined. The point is whatever media that cited the program should not have reported it without confirming (with us)," said Simon Hsing, Foxconn's spokesman.

"We have no plans to take legal action... We hope nothing similar will happen again."

Rights groups have criticized Foxconn for several years for what they describe as harsh working conditions.

Working practices at Foxconn's huge plants in China, which combined employ a million people, came under intense scrutiny in 2010 after a series of suicides among young workers. Last June three workers died in an explosion at a Foxconn plant in Chengdu, western China.

Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for workers' rights group China Labour Bulletin, said workers at Foxconn were still subject to a list of poor working conditions, including long working hours, strict management that sometimes borders on abusive practice, and unsafe work practices in some factories.

"All those things are very much in place. I don't think there's been any alleviation (of these problems) in the past few months. I don't think Foxconn's done anything, really," Crothall said.

The retracted episode, broadcast on January 6, was based heavily on a one-man theatrical show by actor Mike Daisey: "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs."

Daisey's play and its attendant publicity, including the radio segment, played a big role in pressuring Apple to allow outside inspectors at its contract manufacturing facilities in China, mostly owned by Foxconn Technology.

The executive producer of "This American Life" said in a broadcast last week that most of the retracted program's content was true and corroborated by independent investigation.

The inaccuracies were linked to the actors' account of his trip to China. For example, Daisey said guards at a Foxconn factory had guns, but the program said only the military and police are permitted to carry guns in China.

Apple, criticized over working conditions at its chain of suppliers in China, said last week that a U.S. non-profit labor group had begun an "unprecedented" inspection of working conditions at its main contract manufacturers.

Last month the New York Times published an investigation into working practices at Apple supplier's plants in China that documented poor health and safety conditions and long working hours.

Hon Hai Precision fell 0.48 percent on Monday, slightly underperforming a 0.14 percent fall in the main Taiwan stock index.

(Additional reporting by Sisi Tang in Hong Kong; Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Neil Fullick)

Earlier on HuffPost:

On February 21, ABC aired a "Nightline" segment in which Bill Weir visited Foxconn factories in China to report on the working conditions there. Take a look at the slideshow (below) for some of the most surprising facts from that broadcast.
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  • Handmade Gadgets

    On February 21, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/nightline-apple-supplier-foxconn_n_1293393.html?ref=technology" target="_hplink">ABC aired a "Nightline" segment featuring Bill Weir's visit to a Chinese Foxconn factory</a> responsible for making some of Apple's popular devices. During a tour of the factory, Weir says he "expected more robots" but in fact most of the gadgets at Foxconn are made the old-fashioned way: The high tech parts are put together by hand. For example, iPhones are assembled by hand in 141 steps. One iPad takes five days to assemble and passes through 325 sets of hands.

  • Insane Output

    Two shifts of workers toiling in 12 hour shifts can make 300,000 iPad camera modules in one day, not to mention shape sleek iPads out of "raw hunk[s] of aluminum" at a rate of 10,000 per hour. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>

  • 7 To A Room

    Many workers live at the factory, where they pay $17.50 per month to live 7 to a room in Foxconn dormitories. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2012/02/22/nightline-goes-inside-apple-factories-in-china/" target="_hplink">The average starting salary is $285 per month,</a> and workers must pay for their food. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>

  • No Free Lunch

    Workers get two hour-long meal breaks during each 12-hour shift. They eat together in a cafeteria where they pay $.70 a meal. This is about a quarter of their hourly wage. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>

  • Tim Cook Investigated Suicides

    In 2010, after a spate of suicides at Foxconn's Shenzen plant, then COO Tim Cook flew to China to investigate the matter. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">According to Nightline,</a> Cook put together a team of psychiatric experts to examine the issue. It was at that team's suggestion that the infamous nets were installed between the buildings to prevent suicides. There have been 18 worker suicides at Foxconn since 2010. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/15/us-china-apple-idUSTRE81E1FQ20120215" target="_hplink">According to Reuters' interview with Fair Labor Association president Auret van Heerden, the group's initial findings from its audit of Foxconn</a> suggested that the suicides could have been "a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps."

  • Young Workers

    Weir said he was surprised to see how young the workers were. He said many were in their late teens and no one looked like they could be over 30. Many had left their hometowns, oftentimes in the countryside, in order to get jobs at Foxconn. Weir also toured Chengdu and spoke with the relatives of workers who had left for jobs at Foxconn. According to Cult of Mac, <a href="http://www.cultofmac.com/147878/foxconn-employees-say-underage-workers-were-hidden-before-fla-inspection/" target="_hplink">Foxconn may have hidden underage employees</a> when the Fair Labor Association conducted its inspections. While Apple allows for workers as young as sixteen to assemble their products, those eighteen and under are afforded "special protections," <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/02/22/factory_workers_claim_foxconn_hid_under_age_employees_before_fla_inspection.html" target="_hplink">according to Apple Insider.</a> These include not being allowed to perform some tasks and working shorter hours than older workers.

  • Foxconn Exec Wants To Pay More

    When asked how Foxconn would react if Apple suggested doubling workers' pay, Foxconn executive Louis Woo told Weir that the company would welcome a raise for employees. "Why not?" Woo said. "That would be good for the employees and also definitely good for China and good for us."

  • Air Showers

    Workers have to wear static-proof jackets and take "air showers" to make sure the work area remains dust-free. Even one spec of dust could prove ruinous to the iGadgets' delicate innards. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>

  • WATCH A CLIP FROM THE NIGHTLINE SEGMENT

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Filed by Reuters  |