Apple child labor

In the past few days it’s been revealed that six cases of child labour have been uncovered during audits of Apple’s suppliers, flying in the face of the company’s “zero-tolerance policy” towards such practices.

According to Reuters, the news caused a stir at one of Apple’s stores in Beijing:

Enraged Chinese shoppers pelted Apple’s flagship Beijing store with eggs and shoving matches broke out with police when customers were told the store would not begin sales of the iPhone 4S as scheduled.

Just last year it came out that there were inhumane conditions at one of Apple’s leading suppliers of iPads.

(Source: Reuters, Photo: chinnian)

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Post image for Illegal conditions in Zambia’s Chinese-run mines

Zambia’s Chinese-owned copper mines have come under scrutiny recently from Human Rights Watch, due to their unsafe working conditions and apparent disregard for workers’ rights. To make matters worse, those who join unions or complain about safety face intimidation and job insecurity:

Miners in companies run by the Chinese or other multinationals also described retaliation against outspoken union representatives, including docked pay or refusal to renew their contracts.

Copper is Zambia’s biggest export.

Read more here

(photo: mm-j)

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H&M Cambodia staff fainting

Today the Swedish media reported that more than 200 workers producing H&M garments in Cambodia fainted, after anti-cockroach chemicals were used in their factory.

The full report can be found here (in Swedish).

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ipad human cost

Of course, many of us have heard how the iPad will revolutionise our lives, how it will make things more convenient and how we’ll go for days without needing to turn on our computers. What many of us hadn’t heard about, until the report in today’s Observer, are the conditions under which these wonders of technology are produced.

According to the report, two NGOs have been in the process of interviewing staff at Foxconn, the leading producer of iPads, and have received consistent reports of excessive overtime, ritual humiliation and “anti-suicide contracts”:

“The dormitories where she and most others live offer little comfort. Up to 24 people can share one room and the rules are strict, even prohibiting the use of a kettle or a hairdryer…

Many workers interviewed claimed that they were regularly required to work far in excess of the 36 hours of overtime per month that Chinese law – and therefore international labour law – permits…One worker produced a payslip showing 98 hours of extra time in a single month – nearly three times the legal maximum and in breach of Apple’s own code of conduct.

The rule that employees should have one day off in seven is often flouted…”

This is a wake up call to many of us who enjoy using Apple products, and find it easy to forget the very real human consequences of our global economy. One person’s item of cheap technology usually costs someone, somewhere, a far greater price.

Read the full report here.

(Photo: Bark)

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Nokia Siemens Phone Snooping Iran

Iran has long been known as a volatile state, prone to violent authoritarian activity that continuously threatens the security of its inhabitants. Telephone calls in Iran are carefully monitored by government security agencies: the slightest whiff of a political discussion and your conversation is hastily disconnected.

While most of the world stands by, aghast that freedom of speech can be so flippantly disregarded, there are companies who are looking for opportunities to turn it in their favour, to make a profit at the expense of those without a voice.

Once such company is Nokia Siemens who, it is alleged, have assisted the Iranian Government in setting up a state of the art surveillance system with which they can monitor the use of fixed lines, mobile phones and text messaging within the country. According to their 2009 sustainability report:

…Nokia Siemens Networks provided a monitoring center to allow Iranian law enforcement authorities to implement the Lawful Interception capability in MCI’s mobile network…

Iranian Human Rights Campaigner Isa Saharkhiz is bringing a case before the US Federal Court which, if successful, will call Nokia Siemens to account for their actions, and to use their government connections to call for Saharkhiz’ release from custody.

Saharkhiz was arrested, with the help of this technology, because of his support for the opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi. Amnesty International have commented that they:

“…[consider] him to be a prisoner of conscience, held solely on account of the peaceful expression of his views, including regarding the outcome of the election and is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.”

Sources: Zdnet, The Guardian, Google News.

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wine

Patricia Lanton proposes that Fairtrade wines have, at last, come of age over on the Guardian Word of Mouth Blog. She reviews a number of Fairtrade wines, including strong offerings from The Co-operative, M&S and Waitrose:

Recently I tasted around 50 wines which are currently available and found that the quality has improved enormously and the choice is becoming much more varied.

Sounds like the makings of a good headache! Read more here

UPDATE: The Independent have now released their Ten Best Fairtrade Wines, which you can read on The Independent Online.

(Photo: Mr T in DC)

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