Labor condition questions mire iPad debut

Apple\'s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller stands in front of an old iPad, left, and new iPad, right, during an Apple event in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 7, 2012. The new iPad features a sharper screen and a faster processor. Apple says the new display will be even sharper than the high-definition television set in the living room. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Nathan Hager,

WASHINGTON – Apple’s announcement of the new iPad and a revamped Apple TV was met with the usual round of anticipation and excitement from tech reporters and iFans alike.

These unveilings are typically tightly controlled, carefully choreographed events, keeping with Apple’s reputation as a highly secretive, yet highly beloved brand.

But the burnish may be starting to fade from Apple’s image in light of reports that its main Chinese supplier, Foxconn, has employed children in its factories, kept unsafe working conditions and forced its employees to work long hours with low pay.

If true, the reports fly in the face of Apple’s code of conduct, which the company says it expects suppliers to uphold.

The code calls for a work week no longer than 60 hours including overtime, at least one day off per week and a minimum wage as required by each country’s laws.

Foxconn is accused of forcing some of its employees to endure work weeks as long as 100 hours. There are reports of workers being killed in explosions caused by dust from polished iPads igniting. Foxconn has also dealt with a recent spate of worker suicides.

For some Apple customers, the charges against Foxconn are a concern.

“It’s discouraging,” says Lindsay Crisler, a customer at the Apple store in Georgetown.

“I would pay more, I think, if I knew that we were worried about working conditions.”

But another customer at the same store says the allegations against Apple’s supplier won’t blunt his loyalty to the brand.

“It’s such great products. You kind of expect them (Apple) to try and sort things out in that other area, and it doesn’t stop me, personally, from buying the products,” the customer says.

A petition has been posted online calling on Apple to release its records on Foxconn labor hours since November 2011, presumably around the time the new iPad was first under development.

“Until Apple does so, we can only assume that they are bluffing about caring about workers’ health and safety — and we’re calling that bluff,” the petition reads.

The petitioners want to gather 25,000 digital signatures.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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