The product release schedule of new Apple products is literally killing people.
The Foxconn factories in China are sprawling, city-like complexes where people routinely work consecutive 14-hour shifts assembling products for the world's major electronics companies.
Conditions at Foxconn are notoriously bad - and Apple's product release schedules are partly to blame. During peak periods of demand for the iPad, workers were allowed just one day off for every 13 worked, and were asked to work excessive overtime hours. In the rush to fill orders for new iPads, at least 14 workers have committed suicide in the last 16 months.
Foxconn's response to worker suicides has been deplorable. Instead of making real improvements to working conditions, Foxconn installed netting around its dormitory buildings (to prevent death when someone jumped out of a window) and began requiring workers to sign pledges that they wouldn't commit suicide at the factory.
And last week, three workers died and 15 were injured in a chemical explosion at Foxconn's finishing facility (where Apple's signature products undergo finishing).
The Foxconn Technology Group is Apple's biggest manufacturing partner. It's very likely that your iPhone, iPad or Macbook were manufactured at one of Foxconn's troubled facilities. Apple is known in the electronics industry as placing extreme demands on suppliers to fill orders in a short period of time.
Over the past few years, dozens of groups have called out Foxconn and Apple. But unlike other companies, Apple has refused to work with third party groups seeking the safety of workers, and they've been unwilling to share information with oversight groups. While the problems at Foxconn are systemic and will take time to fix, Apple can help these workers now by changing its product release schedule.
Apple can do the right thing. We're calling on Apple to review its product release schedule, and make the changes necessary to protect workers and keep factories in China safe. No one should die for an iPad.
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