Taiwanese union using Apple to raise profile of their complaints

May 21, 2009

This story raises some very interesting questions that have little to do with Apple, like why is a Taiwanese union protesting treatment of Chinese laborers given that the two countries are still technically at war and don’t have relations let alone share labor unions? There’s more going on here than meets the eye.

FYI“”the characters displayed (fuze) on the MacBook shown in the image to the left together mean “responsibility”

The Global Post reports that a Taiwanese labor union, the Taipei-based National Federation of Independent Trade Unions, is protesting the treatment of Chinese workers at a Chinese factories owned by a Taiwanese original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that makes products for Apple Inc. Yes, the union is also protesting treatment of local Taiwanese workers by the company, but it’s still rather a convoluted state of affairs.

Wintek, the company in question and an OEM flat panel maker, is accused of “exploiting workers” both in China and Taiwan. However, although economic ties between Taiwan and China are strong, the two countries don’t recognize each other or have formal relations let alone share labor unions, which have historically been kept impotent and under tight control in both countries.

“We want to go through Apple to put pressure on Wintek,” said Chu Wei-li, 30, secretary-general of the Taipei-based National Federation of Independent Trade Unions, an organizer of the protests, which accuses of the company of unfairly sacking workers and unilaterally cutting wages.

Thereupon, Apple’s Asia spokesperson Jill Tan said in an e-mail, “Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility wherever our products are [made],” and pointed me to the firm’s corporate responsibility information. She says that Apple conducts regular audits of suppliers to make sure they comply with Apple’s code of conduct and “we require corrective actions when we find violations.”

Capitalist overlords

Given the grief that Apple received over reports, which were later shown to be an exaggerated and sensationalized twist on reality, of worker abuse at a Foxconn iPod factory in China several years ago, I doubt Cupertino has been caught asleep at the switch. That is, although there certainly is friction between Wintek and its workers, it may be more the result of the recession than ill will by the company let alone Apple.

And, again, why are workers in Taiwan””people that aren’t known for having benevolent feelings for the Chinese (if you think you hear a giant sucking sound emanating from China, try living right next door“”protesting poor treatment of those who took their jobs? Moreover, blue collar workers in Taiwan have historically favored the DPP, a Taiwan nativist party that opposes relations with China.

Something’s not quite right here…

What’s your take?

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