Foxconn Inspections Are Good PR, but Apple Needs to Protect Workers
NEWS ANALYSIS: While inspections are a good idea, planned visits from the FLA won’t find many problems, and won’t change anything in the way Apple's contract manufacturers treat employees.The good news is that Apple is finally feeling the heat from its customers about how its contract manufacturer, Foxconn, treats the people who make the iPads and iPhones you love so much. The bad news is that those workers will see little, if any, benefit from visits by auditors from the Fair Labor Association, which Apple has asked to inspect the factories where these employees work. The reason that the employees are unlikely to benefit is that Apple doesn't really have any enforcement mechanism in place, so even if there are violations of Apple's agreement with Foxconn, Apple can't really do anything about them. Once the inspection results are posted on the Fair Labor Association Website, Foxconn will revert to business as usual.
In addition to having little in the way of enforcement, the very real fact is that foreign auditors' visits are unlikely to find anything significant in the way of violations. The reasons are simple, as I've learned over many years as an inspecting officer during my time in the U.S. Navy. The reason is that during the visit by the inspectors, the factory managers will clean up their respective acts, and will follow specified safety and workplace rules.