Lately, Apple has received negative press for the working conditions at its Foxconn factory. Workers allegedly only make pennies a hour, work extremely long hours and perform the same tasks thousands of times over and over.
Here is a video of an interview with one of the workers who discusses what it’s like to work for Foxconn:
Working conditions have been so harsh that they are thought to be the cause of several reported employee suicides. With the revelation of these harsh conditions, Apple has come under fire. Click here for an article from the New York Times that exposed the issue.
In 2005, Apple executives made a code of conduct for their suppliers. This code was supposed to prevent this kind of unethical treatment of employees from happening at any factory that worked for them. The New York Times article pointed out that although Apple’s own annual audits of the Chinese factories showed that the code was being violated, the company seemed to ignore the reports. What type of position does this put Apple’s PR team in? Can the PR team do anything to save the image of this company who has broken its own code of ethics? Click here for an interesting look at Apple’s recent audits.
Although this crisis has been linked specifically to Apple, Foxconn also makes electronics for other companies. Is it fair that Apple is being solely targeted by the press? Also, these revelations have brought out another broader issue—overall working conditions in China. Should Apple have to defend itself for a matter that may be a cultural or national issue in China? Or should they take a stand against this unethical treatment of employees, considering they are one of the most influential companies in the world?
Protests of Apple have accelerated recently and it’s obvious that this story isn’t going to fade away in the press. Protesters have started to hold demonstrations in front of Apple stores and offices. Protesting hackers have even hacked into Foxconn’s network and caused havoc for the Apple supplier. These protesters want people to ask themselves this question: Would you still buy your smart phone or tablet if you knew the conditions in which it was made? What can the PR team at Apple do to respond to the protesters? Is there anything they can do?
As of yet, Apple has not formally responded to this imminent crisis. As we have learned, it is imperative for companies to make a statement about a crisis, as staying silent usually implies some sort of guilt. As you can see here, Apple has done things differently when it handled crises in the past. Do you think Apple can continue to deal with crises in this unique fashion, or is this going to come back to bite them sooner or later?
So far, the only “response” has come in the form of a leaked email from Apple CEO Tim Cook. Here is the link to the leaked email. Do you think this email was leaked intentionally? Is this response enough, or should Apple have made a more definitive public statement?
It appears that the majority of news coverage is attacking Apple. Although the coverage should probably be targeting the entire electronics/smartphone industry, Apple’s lack of a response seems to be adding fuel to the crisis fire. Do you agree or disagree? Also, if you were a PR practitioner for Apple, what type of response would you have made? Do you agree with how they have handled it so far?
Sam Plymale and Laura Taylor