2012年6月30日 星期六

Japan whistleblower wins/ 大同公司林董事長Head of Taiwan's Tatung guilty of breach of trust

Head of Taiwan's Tatung guilty of breach of trust
TAIPEI — The head of Taiwan's top home appliance maker, Tatung Company, was handed a four-and-a-half-year prison term after he ordered the firm to finance a company he had invested in, a court said on Saturday.
Tatung chairman Lin Wei-shan was handed the prison sentence late Friday at a court in New Taipei City, close to the capital, after being convicted of breach of trust. He has not yet been jailed as he plans to appeal the ruling.
The 65-year-old had instructed a Tatung subsidiary to finance a computer firm he personally invested in, which caused Tatung a loss of at least Tw$1.7 billion ($56 million), according to the court.
"Lin abused his powers as the chairman and his actions... seriously damaged the interests of Tatung shareholders and investors," the Banciao district court said in a statement.
Lin was quoted by the state central news agency as saying that he will appeal the ruling to clear his name.
Established in 1918, Taiwan-listed Tatung, which makes goods such as flat-panel TVs, fridges and fans, is one of the island's best-known brands and runs manufacturing plants in China, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.
It also has investment interests in green energy, real estate and education.


whistleblower wins, 慰安婦攝影展、尖尖閣閣Restaurateur turns filmmaker to show plight of Tibetan refugeeswhistleblower wins, 慰安婦攝影展、尖尖閣閣Restaurateur turns...


Japan whistleblower wins in Supreme Court in nation first as judge dismisses Olympus appeal

TOKYO — Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a whistleblower for the first time in a case that highlights the harsh treatment outspoken employees have endured in a nation that zealously values loyalty and conformity.

Despite being a good salesman with experience in the United States, Masaharu Hamada, 51, was demoted at Olympus Corp., forced to take rudimentary tests and ignored by colleagues, in what he alleged was reprisal for raising the issue of supplier complaints.
He received a notice Saturday from this nation’s highest court, dated Thursday, dismissing the appeal by Tokyo-based camera and medical equipment maker Olympus of a 2010 lower court decision. It sealed the victory of the little “salaryman” against a giant of Japan Inc.
“We need a society where honest hard-working people don’t lose out,” Hamada told The Associated Press. “This is about justice and human rights.”

Hamada’s story highlights how workers labeled as misbehaving are punished in Japan, where major companies like Olympus offer lifetime employment, although they more freely fire contract and part-time workers.

That means employees like Hamada become targets of cruel harassment designed to silence them or make them quit. Hamada was nearly driven to breakdown during his five-year battle.
Japan is behind some Western nations in protecting whistleblowers. A law to protect them was enacted only in 2006, and critics say it is inadequate because it does not penalize companies that punish whistleblowers. To pursue legal action, whistleblowers can’t quit as the law only applies to employees.

Only a handful of whistleblower has come forward in Japan in the past few decades. When they do, they are treated as outcasts, sometimes being told to sit in closet-sized offices or to mow the lawn. Sometimes even their children become victims of discrimination. So abhorred is the employee who dares to question the company.
Hamada sued Olympus in 2008, saying he was punished for relaying a supplier’s complaint that its best employees were being lured away by Olympus. Olympus said he was merely transferred, not demoted.
His case is considered a whistleblowing case in Japan because he went first to his bosses and then to the company compliance unit, trying to raise questions about the professional behavior of colleagues for the public good, and, as the Supreme Court found, was punished unfairly in retribution.
Last year, the Tokyo High Court reversed an earlier district court decision and ordered Olympus to pay Hamada 2.2 million yen ($28,000) in damages for the transfer. Olympus had appealed.
Olympus was not immediately available for comment Saturday. In the past, it has called the court rulings favoring Hamada “regrettable.”
Olympus has been targeted recently by another high-profile whistleblower, Briton Michael Woodford, the former chief executive.
Woodford was fired in October after he blew the whistle on dubious accounting at Olympus. The company later acknowledged it hid 117.7 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in investment losses dating back to the 1990s. Three former Olympus executives, including the ex-chairman, were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of orchestrating the accounting cover-up.
Woodford has become a hero in Japan. Three weeks ago, Woodford won a 10 million pound (1.2 billion yen, $15.4 million) settlement from Olympus in a British court. He had sued alleging unlawful dismissal and discrimination as he was not given the same treatment as a Japanese employee.
How Hamada will be treated at Olympus on Monday remains unclear.
He plans to show up at work at 8:45 a.m. as usual, wearing his company color, blue, as he is confident he is an upstanding “Olympus-man.”
Hamada said he would like to be transferred to the corporate compliance division, given the serious problems that have surfaced with Woodford’s case and the knowledge he has gained about proper management through his court battle.
“I would like to work for the true revival of Olympus, where dedicated employees can work and feel joy, in a nurturing environment, and be proud,” said Hamada.

2012年6月29日 星期五

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad 富士康成都廠傳騷亂?中國の鴻海優遇がなㄑなる日: 優待富士康日子快結束了


Color China Photo, via Associated Press

2011年五月一個周五的夜晚,爆炸的衝擊波穿透了A5大樓。火光四射,聲音震天,扭曲 的金屬管像被丟棄的稻草一樣四處散落。在食堂吃飯的工人們跑到空地上,眼見窗戶震裂,滾滾黑煙正不斷從裡面冒出。爆炸事發地點是生產iPad一個拋光車 間。在那裡,工人們每天都要為iPad打磨成千上萬的鋁製外殼。
Ryan Pyle for The New York Times
Ryan Pyle for The New York Times
Ym Yik/European Pressphoto Agency
遠在老家的傷者父親接到了電話。六個月以前,23歲的賴小東搬到距家鄉綿陽市3小時車程的成都市上班。這裡有着全世界規模最大、產率最高、設備最精 密的製造體系。這個龐大的體系足以讓蘋果以及數百家科技公司的電子產品以他們能設想到的最快速度製造出來。賴小東成為了數百萬支撐這個龐大體系運作的“人 肉齒輪”中的一個。
在過去的十年里,蘋果已經成為世界上規模最大、資金最多、最成功的企業之一,這在很大程度上來自於它對全球製造業的掌控。由於精於通過轉移生產地點 控制成本,蘋果和其他美國的高科技公司,以及美國的各色產業,在創新工業中的發展速度堪稱在現代史上無與倫比。但是,根據《紐約時報》對工人、業內分析人 士的採訪,以及相關的公司文件,組裝和製造iPhone, iPad等電子產品的工人卻時常在艱苦、甚至致命的環境下工作。有些工人反映,由於長時間的站立工作,他們的腿部出現了水腫,以至於無法便捷行走;甚至有 工人因為工業事故而喪命,或者因為接觸有毒化學品而住院。(相關報道:蘋果CEO回應《紐約時報》“血汗工廠”報道
據工人權益組織及蘋果公司自己發佈的報告,僱傭童工製造蘋果產品的情況確有存在。有的供應商非法排放有害廢品,然後篡改數據修飾遮掩。兩年前,在中 國東部的一家蘋果供應商工廠,137名工人因用有毒的正己烷擦拭清潔iPhone屏幕使神經系統受到損傷。去年,在七個月的時間裡,兩家製造iPad的工 廠發生了類似的爆炸事件——包括在成都的那次——兩次事故,共有四人遇難,77人受傷。有一家組織在爆炸發生前警告過蘋果,成都廠區的工作環境很危險;但 據該組織說,蘋果並沒有堅持加強該廠的安全措施。
“如果有人提前向蘋果示警了,而它卻無所作為,這種行為是應該受譴責的。不過也正是因為在一國不能接受的行為在另外一個地方行得通,這些公司才能佔 到便宜。”職業安全與健康全國建議委員會前主席尼克·阿什福德(Nicholas Ashford)說。該組織直接向美國勞工部提供政策建議。
蘋果並不是唯一一家供應鏈上生產環境惡劣的電子產品公司。戴爾、惠普、聯想、索尼、摩托羅拉、諾基亞等公司都被發現其生產車間內的工作環境嚴苛。而 且,蘋果的前任和現任高管都曾聲明,近年來蘋果在改善其海外工廠的工作條件上取得了長足的進步。譬如它啟動了一項積極的審核計劃,一旦發現供應商工廠出現 問題,將及時令其整改。就在這個月初,蘋果首次公布了它的主要供應商名單。而它的供應商責任進度年報,經常率先披露工人權益得不到保障的情況。蘋果的高管 也對消除童工、非自願加班等問題相當投入。
一些蘋果的前任高管則透露,違規情況屢屢發生是因為蘋果一直沒有解決好這個矛盾:有的管理者確實希望改善工人工作環境;但是一旦與核心供應商發生衝 突,或者影響到新產品出廠的速度,管理層的決心就立刻動搖了。現有的這個系統說不上完美,前高管們說,但如果進行實質性的大整改,必然會影響產品的創新進 度,從而威脅蘋果的競爭優勢。
“如果一半的iPhone出現故障,你覺得蘋果能在四年里都坐視不管嗎?對於一些工廠中的勞工情況,我們已經知道不止四年了,但它們原來什麼樣子, 現在還是什麼樣子。為什麼?因為這樣的體系對我們有好處。只要蘋果說非改不可,供應商絕對第二天就能改過來。”一位不願透露姓名的蘋果公司前管理人員說。 本文很多受訪對象也因為保密原則而要求不公開他們的姓名。
蘋果在公開報告中聲稱,一旦發現供應商有違規現象,蘋果將終止同供應商的合作。然而幾位蘋果的前任高管私下裡曾承認,尋找新的供應商既耗時,又昂 貴。富士康是少數幾家擁有製造iPhone和iPad的勞動力和技術優勢的供應商之一。哈佛學者西瑟·懷特(Heather White)認為,蘋果公司“絕對不會離開富士康,也不會離開中國的。蘋果公司的管理層並沒有真正花時間深入到工廠里,看一看工廠到底是什麼狀況。短期之 內,蘋果或是富士康都不會在關鍵問題上讓步,這是有很多原因的。”懷特曾經是國家科學院國際監察勞動準則代表委員會的成員。
去年10月去世的蘋果前任首席執行官史蒂夫·喬布斯(Steven P. Jobs)在2010年一次業內會議中曾談及蘋果與供應商的關係:“我認為蘋果對於其供應鏈各個公司的工作條件的了解以及付出的努力,恐怕是業內做得最好的。”
2010年的秋天,也就是在iPad工廠爆炸的半年以前,賴小東剛剛從大專畢業。他向老師們道別,對好友們道別——他恐怕無法再參加朋友們每周一次 的撲克大戰了。他小心翼翼地用衣服包好畢業證書,放到行李箱中,生怕折了。小東很快就要抵達成都開始工作了。這座擁有1200萬人口的城市已經迅速地成為 了世界上最重要的製造業基地之一。
在成都,大大小小的工廠為成千上百的公司代工各種產品。小東選中的是富士康科技集團——一家擁有120萬工人的公司,其出口量居全中國之冠,員工數 量也是首屈一指。富士康組裝了地球上40%的消費類電子產品,它代工的企業包括亞馬遜、戴爾、惠普、任天堂、諾基亞和三星。但它最重要的客戶要數蘋果公 司。在蘋果去年賣掉的全部產品中,一大半都是經由富士康工廠組裝的。
小東在富士康找到了一份維修工的工作。他最早注意到的事情之一就是車間里那些永遠亮得晃眼的燈。富士康24小時開工,因此室內永遠明亮如晝。成百上 千的工人或站在流水線旁邊,或坐在板凳上,或蹲在機器旁,或一趟趟地小跑於取貨點和卸貨點。有的工人由於長時間的站立,腿部水腫,步履蹣跚。一個名叫趙晟 的年輕工人在工廠附近的茶館告訴記者:“站上一天的滋味很不好受。”一名坐在他旁邊的工友點頭表示同意。
蘋果的供應商行為準則明確規定:“除特殊情況外,一周工作時間不得超過60小時。”但根據訪問記錄,工人工資單以及第三方團體的調查,在富士康,很 多工人的工作時長都超過了60個小時。小東的工資單顯示,他一天工作12個小時,一周工作六天。遲到的要寫檢討,有時還要罰抄總裁語錄。這裡還有一種制度 叫“兩連班”,指的是工人需要連續工作兩個班次。
小東一天的工資(含加班)大約是22美元。因為他有大專文憑,所以他的起薪比大多數普通工人要高一倍。小東每天一下班就回到自己租的一人單間,房間 不大,僅僅夠放下基本的幾樣傢具,一張床,一個衣櫃,一個書桌,僅此而已。據小東的女友羅小紅說,小東回到自己的出租屋後,在線打鬥地主就是他的主要娛 樂。
儘管條件窘迫,小東租的單間還是好於其他七萬名員工居住的富士康宿舍—一套三居室的宿舍,有時要擠下二十個人。去年由於勞資糾紛,工人們怨憤滔天, 導致宿舍區發生了一場騷動。憤怒的工人從宿舍往樓下扔瓶子、垃圾筒和點燃的紙。據目擊者說,當地出動了兩百名警察衝進廠區,逮捕了八名工人才平息。事後, 據一位富士康的高層說,宿舍里配備的垃圾筒都被收走了,但成堆的垃圾和時常光顧的老鼠又成了新的問題。小東為自己住在單租的房間能免去這些麻煩而暗自慶 幸。
但在2006年時,英國的《周日郵報》暗訪了一家富士康iPod工廠,並對內部的情形進行了報道:工人要長時間工作、有時還要被罰做俯卧撐,而他們 的宿舍擁擠不堪。一位蘋果公司的前僱員稱,“公司裡面有很多有良知的人,但是他們對工廠的真實情況卻一無所知。這種情形非馬上改變不可。”
蘋果還啟動了一系列的相關機制,包括派公司的審查員到供應商處了解情況,並從2007年起開始發佈一年一度的《供應商社會責任進展報告》。截止至去 年,蘋果總共檢查了396家工廠,包括直接供應商及這些供應商的上游供應商,這是迄今為止電子消費品行業規模最大的調查之一。根據蘋果公司的報告,審查員 們發現了持續違反蘋果相關準則的行為。譬如在2007年,蘋果審核了三十多家工廠,其中三分之二的工廠表示他們的工人一周工作超過蘋果所規定的上限60個 小時。除此之外,還有六項極為嚴重的違規,包括僱傭15歲的童工以及偽造記錄。
在接下來的三年,蘋果共進行了282次審查。每一年,審查員都報告有半數或者更多的工廠要求其工人一周工作六天以上,以及讓他們超時加班。有些工人 的收入低於最低工資標準,而工廠有時還會剋扣工人的工資以作為懲罰。在這段時期,蘋果共發現70起極為嚴重的違規,比如非自願加班、使用童工、偽造記錄、 不當處理有毒害廢棄物、以及一例上百工人受到有毒化學品侵害的事件。
蘋果公司稱,如果審計發現供應商有違規行為的話,後者會被要求解決指定問題並且變更管理制度以防止類似問題重複發生。蘋果對問題整改的期限是90 天。蘋果的網站上寫道:“如果我們發現問題沒有被充分解決,我們會和有整改意願的供應商攜手解決問題,改善工廠環境。但如果供應商沒有整改意願,我們則會 終止與其合作。”
“一旦富士康成為了蘋果的授權供應商,蘋果就不會再理會工人權益或其它與其產品無關的事了。”曾在富士康任經理的李明啟說。李在富士康工作了七年, 因反對富士康將其調往成都廠區工作而於去年三月被強制勸退。他現在正在和公司打官司。但富士康一方否認了李先生的說法,並補充道:“富士康與蘋果都十分重 視員工的福利問題。”
蘋果的努力確實帶來了一些改變。公司2011年發佈的《供應商責任進度報告》中寫道,重新被審計的工廠“情況持續好轉,工作環境改善”。另外,蘋果 審核工廠的數量在逐年遞增,一些公司高管表示,由於調查的規模擴張太快,具體工廠逐年的進步體現得不是很明顯。根據最新的進度報告,蘋果還對100萬工人 進行了權益方面的培訓,教他們怎麼預防工傷和疾病。幾年以前,當蘋果的巡檢員堅持要求與底層工人面談時,他們發現有些工人被迫付了高昂的“受雇費”。在蘋 果看來,這屬於非自願勞動。
“蘋果在防止僱傭童工上做得首屈一指,”英派特諮詢公司(Impactt Ltd.)的迪昂尼·哈里森(Dionne Harrison)說。蘋果僱傭了哈里森所供職的公司專門預防及應對供應鏈中僱傭童工的行為。“他們已經在力所能及的範圍內做出努力了,而且他們在公開討 論這個問題。大多數公司根本連提都不願意提。”問及如何能再改善蘋果的供應商審核項目,哈里森認為這個項目已經很完美了。
“我們已經連續多年跟蘋果提出他們有嚴重的問題,並且建議他們改善。但他們從來不去預防問題,就想着怎麼能避免問題出現後的尷 尬,”BSR(Business for Social Responsibility)的一位諮詢顧問指出。蘋果曾兩次委託這家公司為其提供勞工事務方面的建議。
在整整四個月的時間內,BSR等發起者一直在與富士康溝通,試圖建立一條新的“員工熱線”。有了這條熱線,工人可以反映惡劣的工作條件、尋求心理輔 導以及談論車間里的其他問題。BSR一位了解內情的諮詢顧問說,蘋果公司並未正式參與到這個項目中,但是對項目的進展是知情的。
但是在溝通的過程中,富士康方面的要求不斷在變動。最開始,富士康提出公司原先已經有一條員工熱線了,所以不用建新的,先評估一下這條老的熱線如 何。然後,富士康提出熱線“提供心理輔導”一項應被去掉。富士康要求所有的項目參與者都簽署一份協議,保證不對外透露他們在工廠裡面看到的情況,後來又不 斷地修改這份協議。
最後,各方面的意見終於達成一致,項目定於2008年1月正式啟動。但就在啟動的前一天,富士康又提出要修改調查問卷收集的方式。管理層把所有人召 集到了一起,開始逐項宣布公司方面的要求,直到大家都明白:這個項目是根本做不下去了。BSR在一份2008年公開的項目總結中披露了這些細節,但當時並 沒有點出富士康的名字。
在項目終止一年之後,一名弄丟了iPhone樣機的富士康員工從一公寓樓頂墜落死亡,是失足跌落還是自殺行為尚不清楚。在此後的兩年中,富士康共發 生了十八起自殺性墜樓或其他方式的自殺行為。2010年,在時隔新熱線項目擱淺兩年後,富士康創立了一條專門針對員工心理健康的熱線,並且開始為員工提供 免費的心理輔導。
“我們本可以救下那些命的,而且我們也督促了蘋果去給富士康施壓,但他們就是不肯,”一名BSR的諮詢顧問說。“其他的公司像惠普、英特爾、耐克等 等都會力促他們的供應商(去改善員工的工作、生活環境)。但是蘋果總想和它的供貨商保持點距離,尤其富士康是他們最重要的貨源,所以蘋果根本不願意去施加 什麼壓力。”
在一份書面聲明中,BSR的總裁阿隆•克拉默稱這些說法是諮詢顧問的個人觀點,並不代表公司立場。“我個人以及在BSR的同事都認為蘋果在確保其供 應鏈上勞工的權益方面做出了不懈努力,使之符合相關的法律法規、公司準則和消費者的期望。”克拉默補充道,要求蘋果對富士康施壓與熱線項目的初衷不符,因 為項目的發起者希冀看到供應商能夠自覺地實施這些項目,而非礙於某種外力。並且,項目當初未能進行下去的原因是多種多樣的。
然後,蘋果計算出它需要為每個最終用於iPhone、iPad或者其他產品的零件付多少錢。多數供應商只能獲得很小的利潤。據供應商的主管說,實際 上利潤小到對於很多公司來說為蘋果代工是接近虧損的。作為對策,供應商經常試圖偷工減料,或者用便宜的替代品代替昂貴的化學製品,或者—據代工廠的人講— 要迫使工人們做得更快、工作得時間更長。
2010年1月,蘋果的供應商之一勝華科技(Wintek)經歷了一場工人罷工—罷工者們推翻了一部汽車並砸壞了電腦。罷工的導火索是一系列問題, 包括在工人之間流傳的有工人中毒的消息。維權人士和報紙的調查最終發現137名員工受到一種叫正己烷的化學製品的傷害。正己烷可以導致神經損傷和麻痹。
直到2011年二月,也就是罷工爆發一年多以後,蘋果公司才對勝華科技的事件作出評論。在公司的供應商責任報告中,蘋果說“已經要求勝華科技停止使 用正己烷”,並稱“蘋果已經確認所有受到影響的工人都受到了效果良好的治療。我們會繼續關注他們的醫療報告直到徹底痊癒為止。”在那份報告中,蘋果還表示 已經要求勝華科技修理通風系統。
同在二月份,一位《紐約時報》的記者採訪了多位受到毒害的勝華科技工人,他們說從來沒有任何蘋果公司或者替蘋果公司代理此事的人聯繫過他們。與此同 時,勝華科技要求他們拿着現金賠償離職,就此免除代工廠的一切責任。在《紐約時報》的採訪後,勝華科技保證向受傷工人提供更多賠償,而蘋果也派出一位代表 與工人們聯繫。
惠普公司的佐伊·麥克馬洪(Zoe McMahon)說,“我們的供應商對我們非常坦率。如果他們認為達到我們的期望有困難,他們會讓我們知道。他們的反饋會影響我們的決定。”麥克馬洪在惠普負責公司供應鏈社會和環境責任項目。
僅僅在爆炸的兩周前,一家權益組織曾發佈一份報告警告成都廠區的工作環境很危險,包括具有可燃性的鋁粉的問題。這個叫“大學師生監察無良企業行動” (SACOM)的組織用攝像機拍到了覆蓋著一身鋁屑的工人。據該組織的報告稱,“成都廠區的職業健康和安全問題值得擔憂。工人們還強調了空氣流通不暢和人 身保護設備不足的問題。”
爆炸發生的那天早上,賴小東騎着他的單車去上班。iPad在幾個星期之前剛剛上市,工人們被告知每天有成千上萬的後蓋需要拋光。他們說,整個工廠都 要忙瘋了。成排的機器高速打磨着後蓋,戴着面具的工人們按着按鈕。每一個工位上方都盤旋着一個巨大的空氣導管,但這並不足以導出三條不間斷運行的生產線噴 出的鋁粉。粉末到處都是。
最後他的家人也到了。“他的皮膚都被燒焦了,還有水泡,”他的弟弟說,“我媽第一眼剛看到他就馬上跑到房間外了。我也哭了。沒有人受得了那個場 景。”小東無法講話,醫生給他插呼吸管的時候,他甚至都張不開他的嘴,整張臉被大火燒得血肉模糊。當小東的母親回來時,她嘗試着避免碰到兒子,以免增加小 東的疼痛。
賴小東的父母希望把他的遺體帶回村子。但一個富士康的經理說,如果想得到賠償,他們必須先同意火化,因為中國法律要求遺體需要在火化後才能被運往異 地。賴小東的父親擋住病房的門,拒絕了這個提議,直到一個保安威脅把他帶走。幾天後,一隊富士康工人開車到賴小東的家鄉送交了一盒骨灰。富士康隨後向賴小 東的家人轉了約90萬人民幣。(富士康在一份聲明中說他們並沒有威脅不給賠償。)
蘋果和富士康在爆炸後都對事故展開了調查。一個蘋果發言人表示蘋果公司“對發生在富士康成都廠區的悲劇深表悲痛,我們的心與遇難者和他們的家人在一 起。我們正與富士康緊密合作以了解這起可怕事故發生的原因。” 富士康在一份聲明中說,成都廠區在爆炸發生前遵守了全部有關法律法規,並稱“在確保所有遇難員工家屬得到他們所要求的支持以後,我們還確保了所有受傷的員 工獲得最高質量的醫療護理”。在爆炸以後,富士康立即中止了所有拋光車間的生產,並在隨後改善了通風設備和與粉塵處理有關的習慣做法。新的技術也被提供到 位以進一步提升工人的安全。然而,不管是蘋果還是富士康,都尚未公布與事故調查有關的文件。
“在一起爆炸發生後沒有意識到每一個工廠都應該受到檢查,這是嚴重的疏忽,”目前在麻省理工學院擔任教授的職業安全專家尼克•阿什福德說,“如果是 因為處理鋁粉非常困難,我可以理解。但你知道粉塵有多麼容易控制嗎?這個辦法就叫做通風。我們在一個世紀前就解決這個問題了。”
在最新的供應商責任報告中,蘋果表示儘管兩起爆炸都與可燃鋁粉有關,但爆炸的原因不盡相同。然而蘋果拒絕提供更多細節。報告補充說,截至目前蘋果已 經審查了所有拋光鋁製品的供應商並採取了更強有力的預防措施,包括特定的通風設備要求,強制執行的導管檢查,以及確保有可用的滅火器。報告說,除了一家供 應商之外其他所有的工廠都採取了應對措施,而那一家將一直處於關閉停產狀態,直到措施到位後才能恢復生產。
每年,當關於蘋果新產品的傳聞開始浮出水面時,報道貿易的刊物和網站都會去猜測哪些供應商有可能中這個“蘋果彩票”。從蘋果獲得一個訂單可以讓一家 公司的價值增加數百萬美元。但很少有企業去炫耀他們接到了什麼工作:這些供應商的高管說,蘋果通常要求他們簽協議保證不會泄露任何信息,包括合作關係。
儘管如此,蘋果公司並未公布其間接供應商的名單。這些間接供應商並不直接和蘋果有合約關係,而是向其直接供應商供貨的幾百家上游公司。這幾百家中, 許多也受蘋果公司的審核。此外,在公開的供應商名單中,蘋果沒有透露任何有關其工廠地點的信息。不僅如此,權益組織表示,他們曾試圖檢查蘋果供應商的運營 情況,但卻被告知其將無法踏入大門一步,而這一禁令直接來自於蘋果公司。
一位曾就職於蘋果供應商責任部門的主管表示,“我們對這個問題進行過多次討論。全公司上下對都我們的行為準則都做出了真誠的承諾。但是如果再往前走 一步、進行一些實質性的變動會與我們的商業機密和發展目標相衝突,所以我們只能止步於此。商業機密至上的企業文化影響着公司內外的一切事務。”
原則上,蘋果公司的僱員不允許同絕大多數外部組織合作,例如非政府組織等等。“如果沒有得到准許,我們部門的員工不可以與非政府組織溝通,”另一位 掌握來自蘋果供應商責任部門第一手信息的蘋果前管理人員如是說。“即使大家是在同一場會議上碰見了,也不能深入交談。這項規定確實很令人沮喪,我們本來可 以從別人那裡學到很多東西。”
其他技術公司則沒有採用這種做法。英特爾公司企業社會責任經理加里·涅克爾克(Gary Newkerk)表示,“我與任何有正當理由和我展開交流的人進行溝通。我們公司的外部合作非常豐富。這個世界很複雜,如果不與外界溝通,我們將會錯過許多重要信息。”
鑒於蘋果公司在全球製造業領域擁有卓越聲譽和領先地位,如果其對目前的政策做出重大改變,將會為主流商業模式帶來翻天覆地的變化。“每個公司都想成 為蘋果,”來自尹納夫(Enough)公司的薩沙·列茨涅夫(Sasha Lezhnev)一語中的。尹納夫是一個致力於幫助公司運營者從遭受種族滅絕和環境退化的國家中抽身而退的組織。“如果蘋果公司承諾推出一款不會引發任何 衝突的iPhone,這將會徹底改變目前所謂的‘技術’。”
然而,據許多蘋果前任和現任的管理人員所言,無論怎麼說,真正能夠促成蘋果政策轉變的外部壓力寥寥無幾。“蘋果”是全球最出色的品牌之一,根據《紐 約時報》進行的一項全國性調查,56%的受調查者認為蘋果公司完美無缺;14%的人認為蘋果公司最大的缺點是它的產品過於昂貴;只有2%的回應者提到了海 外勞動力問題。
哈佛學者懷特女士表示:“蘋果公司目前沒有足夠的壓力來做出太多改變。股東們並沒有提出意見,股票價格也風平浪靜。更何況,政府也沒有表示將對其提 出制裁。”權益組織認為,除非消費者表達出對改善海外工廠環境的需求——正如他們當年對耐克公司和蓋普(GAP)公司提出類似要求並改變了供應商的處境一 樣。而決策者也必須有所作為,否則蘋果公司實在缺乏政策改革的動力。一部分蘋果內部員工也同意這一看法。


The iEconomy

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

Color China Photo, via Associated Press
An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads.

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.
When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.
Ryan Pyle for The New York Times
A JOB TURNS DEADLY Aluminum dust from polishing iPads caused the blast at Foxconn's plant in Chengdu, left. Lai Xiaodong was among those killed. He had moved to Chengdu, bringing with him his college diploma, six months earlier.
Ryan Pyle for The New York Times
A SHRINE FOR A SON Lai Xiaodong was killed in a Foxconn factory explosion. His parents have built a memorial in their village.
Ym Yik/European Pressphoto Agency
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS After a rash of apparent suicide attempts, a dormitory for Foxconn workers in Shenzhen, China, had safety netting installed last May. Foxconn said it acted quickly and comprehensively to address employee suicides.
Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.
“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.
“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.
However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.
“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.”
Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.
Current and former Apple executives, moreover, say the company has made significant strides in improving factories in recent years. Apple has a supplier code of conduct that details standards on labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company has mounted a vigorous auditing campaign, and when abuses are discovered, Apple says, corrections are demanded.
And Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports, in many cases, are the first to report abuses. This month, for the first time, the company released a list identifying many of its suppliers.
But significant problems remain. More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007, according to Apple’s reports, and in some instances have violated the law. While many violations involve working conditions, rather than safety hazards, troubling patterns persist.
“Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,” said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple’s most important manufacturing partners. Mr. Li, who is suing Foxconn over his dismissal, helped manage the Chengdu factory where the explosion occurred.
“Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests,” he said.
Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products. Tuesday, Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales. Its sales would have been even higher, executives said, if overseas factories had been able to produce more.
Executives at other corporations report similar internal pressures. This system may not be pretty, they argue, but a radical overhaul would slow innovation. Customers want amazing new electronics delivered every year.
“We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,” said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. “Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.”
“If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?” the executive asked.
Apple, in its published reports, has said it requires every discovered labor violation to be remedied, and suppliers that refuse are terminated. Privately, however, some former executives concede that finding new suppliers is time-consuming and costly. Foxconn is one of the few manufacturers in the world with the scale to build sufficient numbers of iPhones and iPads. So Apple is “not going to leave Foxconn and they’re not going to leave China,” said Heather White, a research fellow at Harvard and a former member of the Monitoring International Labor Standards committee at the National Academy of Sciences. “There’s a lot of rationalization.”
Apple was provided with extensive summaries of this article, but the company declined to comment. The reporting is based on interviews with more than three dozen current or former employees and contractors, including a half-dozen current or former executives with firsthand knowledge of Apple’s supplier responsibility group, as well as others within the technology industry.
In 2010, Steven P. Jobs discussed the company’s relationships with suppliers at an industry conference.
“I actually think Apple does one of the best jobs of any companies in our industry, and maybe in any industry, of understanding the working conditions in our supply chain,” said Mr. Jobs, who was Apple’s chief executive at the time and who died last October.
“I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory.”
Others, including workers inside such plants, acknowledge the cafeterias and medical facilities, but insist conditions are punishing.
“We’re trying really hard to make things better,” said one former Apple executive. “But most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.”
The Road to Chengdu
In the fall of 2010, about six months before the explosion in the iPad factory, Lai Xiaodong carefully wrapped his clothes around his college diploma, so it wouldn’t crease in his suitcase. He told friends he would no longer be around for their weekly poker games, and said goodbye to his teachers. He was leaving for Chengdu, a city of 12 million that was rapidly becoming one of the world’s most important manufacturing hubs.
Though painfully shy, Mr. Lai had surprised everyone by persuading a beautiful nursing student to become his girlfriend. She wanted to marry, she said, and so his goal was to earn enough money to buy an apartment.
Factories in Chengdu manufacture products for hundreds of companies. But Mr. Lai was focused on Foxconn Technology, China’s largest exporter and one of the nation’s biggest employers, with 1.2 million workers. The company has plants throughout China, and assembles an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics, including for customers like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Nintendo, Nokia and Samsung.
Foxconn’s factory in Chengdu, Mr. Lai knew, was special. Inside, workers were building Apple’s latest, potentially greatest product: the iPad.
When Mr. Lai finally landed a job repairing machines at the plant, one of the first things he noticed were the almost blinding lights. Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays. Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled. “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.
Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.” Apple’s supplier code of conduct dictates that, except in unusual circumstances, employees are not supposed to work more than 60 hours a week. But at Foxconn, some worked more, according to interviews, workers’ pay stubs and surveys by outside groups. Mr. Lai was soon spending 12 hours a day, six days a week inside the factory, according to his paychecks. Employees who arrived late were sometimes required to write confession letters and copy quotations. There were “continuous shifts,” when workers were told to work two stretches in a row, according to interviews.
Mr. Lai’s college degree enabled him to earn a salary of around $22 a day, including overtime — more than many others. When his days ended, he would retreat to a small bedroom just big enough for a mattress, wardrobe and a desk where he obsessively played an online game called Fight the Landlord, said his girlfriend, Luo Xiaohong.
Those accommodations were better than many of the company’s dorms, where 70,000 Foxconn workers lived, at times stuffed 20 people to a three-room apartment, employees said. Last year, a dispute over paychecks set off a riot in one of the dormitories, and workers started throwing bottles, trash cans and flaming paper from their windows, according to witnesses. Two hundred police officers wrestled with workers, arresting eight. Afterward, trash cans were removed, and piles of rubbish — and rodents — became a problem. Mr. Lai felt lucky to have a place of his own.
Foxconn, in a statement, disputed workers’ accounts of continuous shifts, extended overtime, crowded living accommodations and the causes of the riot. The company said that its operations adhered to customers’ codes of conduct, industry standards and national laws. “Conditions at Foxconn are anything but harsh,” the company wrote. Foxconn also said that it had never been cited by a customer or government for under-age or overworked employees or toxic exposures.
“All assembly line employees are given regular breaks, including one-hour lunch breaks,” the company wrote, and only 5 percent of assembly line workers are required to stand to carry out their tasks. Work stations have been designed to ergonomic standards, and employees have opportunities for job rotation and promotion, the statement said.
“Foxconn has a very good safety record,” the company wrote. “Foxconn has come a long way in our efforts to lead our industry in China in areas such as workplace conditions and the care and treatment of our employees.”
Apple’s Code of Conduct
In 2005, some of Apple’s top executives gathered inside their Cupertino, Calif., headquarters for a special meeting. Other companies had created codes of conduct to police their suppliers. It was time, Apple decided, to follow suit. The code Apple published that year demands “that working conditions in Apple’s supply chain are safe, that workers are treated with respect and dignity, and that manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible.”
But the next year, a British newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, secretly visited a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, where iPods were manufactured, and reported on workers’ long hours, push-ups meted out as punishment and crowded dorms. Executives in Cupertino were shocked. “Apple is filled with really good people who had no idea this was going on,” a former employee said. “We wanted it changed, immediately.”
Apple audited that factory, the company’s first such inspection, and ordered improvements. Executives also undertook a series of initiatives that included an annual audit report, first published in 2007. By last year, Apple had inspected 396 facilities — including the company’s direct suppliers, as well as many of those suppliers’ suppliers — one of the largest such programs within the electronics industry.
Those audits have found consistent violations of Apple’s code of conduct, according to summaries published by the company. In 2007, for instance, Apple conducted over three dozen audits, two-thirds of which indicated that employees regularly worked more than 60 hours a week. In addition, there were six “core violations,” the most serious kind, including hiring 15-year-olds as well as falsifying records.
Over the next three years, Apple conducted 312 audits, and every year, about half or more showed evidence of large numbers of employees laboring more than six days a week as well as working extended overtime. Some workers received less than minimum wage or had pay withheld as punishment. Apple found 70 core violations over that period, including cases of involuntary labor, under-age workers, record falsifications, improper disposal of hazardous waste and over a hundred workers injured by toxic chemical exposures.
Last year, the company conducted 229 audits. There were slight improvements in some categories and the detected rate of core violations declined. However, within 93 facilities, at least half of workers exceeded the 60-hours-a-week work limit. At a similar number, employees worked more than six days a week. There were incidents of discrimination, improper safety precautions, failure to pay required overtime rates and other violations. That year, four employees were killed and 77 injured in workplace explosions.
“If you see the same pattern of problems, year after year, that means the company’s ignoring the issue rather than solving it,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “Noncompliance is tolerated, as long as the suppliers promise to try harder next time. If we meant business, core violations would disappear.”
Apple says that when an audit reveals a violation, the company requires suppliers to address the problem within 90 days and make changes to prevent a recurrence. “If a supplier is unwilling to change, we terminate our relationship,” the company says on its Web site.
The seriousness of that threat, however, is unclear. Apple has found violations in hundreds of audits, but fewer than 15 suppliers have been terminated for transgressions since 2007, according to former Apple executives.
“Once the deal is set and Foxconn becomes an authorized Apple supplier, Apple will no longer give any attention to worker conditions or anything that is irrelevant to its products,” said Mr. Li, the former Foxconn manager. Mr. Li spent seven years with Foxconn in Shenzhen and Chengdu and was forced out in April after he objected to a relocation to Chengdu, he said. Foxconn disputed his comments, and said “both Foxconn and Apple take the welfare of our employees very seriously.”
Apple’s efforts have spurred some changes. Facilities that were reaudited “showed continued performance improvements and better working conditions,” the company wrote in its 2011 supplier responsibility progress report. In addition, the number of audited facilities has grown every year, and some executives say those expanding efforts obscure year-to-year improvements.
Apple also has trained over a million workers about their rights and methods for injury and disease prevention. A few years ago, after auditors insisted on interviewing low-level factory employees, they discovered that some had been forced to pay onerous “recruitment fees” — which Apple classifies as involuntary labor. As of last year, the company had forced suppliers to reimburse more than $6.7 million in such charges.
“Apple is a leader in preventing under-age labor,” said Dionne Harrison of Impactt, a firm paid by Apple to help prevent and respond to child labor among its suppliers. “They’re doing as much as they possibly can.”
Other consultants disagree.
“We’ve spent years telling Apple there are serious problems and recommending changes,” said a consultant at BSR — also known as Business for Social Responsibility — which has been twice retained by Apple to provide advice on labor issues. “They don’t want to pre-empt problems, they just want to avoid embarrassments.”
‘We Could Have Saved Lives’
In 2006, BSR, along with a division of the World Bank and other groups, initiated a project to improve working conditions in factories building cellphones and other devices in China and elsewhere. The groups and companies pledged to test various ideas. Foxconn agreed to participate.
For four months, BSR and another group negotiated with Foxconn regarding a pilot program to create worker “hotlines,” so that employees could report abusive conditions, seek mental counseling and discuss workplace problems. Apple was not a participant in the project, but was briefed on it, according to the BSR consultant, who had detailed knowledge.
As negotiations proceeded, Foxconn’s requirements for participation kept changing. First Foxconn asked to shift from installing new hotlines to evaluating existing hotlines. Then Foxconn insisted that mental health counseling be excluded. Foxconn asked participants to sign agreements saying they would not disclose what they observed, and then rewrote those agreements multiple times. Finally, an agreement was struck, and the project was scheduled to begin in January 2008. A day before the start, Foxconn demanded more changes, until it was clear the project would not proceed, according to the consultant and a 2008 summary by BSR that did not name Foxconn.
The next year, a Foxconn employee fell or jumped from an apartment building after losing an iPhone prototype. Over the next two years, at least 18 other Foxconn workers attempted suicide or fell from buildings in manners that suggested suicide attempts. In 2010, two years after the pilot program fell apart and after multiple suicide attempts, Foxconn created a dedicated mental health hotline and began offering free psychological counseling.
“We could have saved lives, and we asked Apple to pressure Foxconn, but they wouldn’t do it,” said the BSR consultant, who asked not to be identified because of confidentiality agreements. “Companies like H.P. and Intel and Nike push their suppliers. But Apple wants to keep an arm’s length, and Foxconn is their most important manufacturer, so they refuse to push.”
BSR, in a written statement, said the views of that consultant were not those of the company.
“My BSR colleagues and I view Apple as a company that is making a highly serious effort to ensure that labor conditions in its supply chain meet the expectations of applicable laws, the company’s standards and the expectations of consumers,” wrote Aron Cramer, BSR’s president. Mr. Cramer added that asking Apple to pressure Foxconn would have been inconsistent with the purpose of the pilot program, and there were multiple reasons the pilot program did not proceed.
Foxconn, in a statement, said it acted quickly and comprehensively to address suicides, and “the record has shown that those measures have been successful.”
A Demanding Client
Every month, officials at companies from around the world trek to Cupertino or invite Apple executives to visit their foreign factories, all in pursuit of a goal: becoming a supplier.
When news arrives that Apple is interested in a particular product or service, small celebrations often erupt. Whiskey is drunk. Karaoke is sung.
Then, Apple’s requests start.
Apple typically asks suppliers to specify how much every part costs, how many workers are needed and the size of their salaries. Executives want to know every financial detail. Afterward, Apple calculates how much it will pay for a part. Most suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits.
So suppliers often try to cut corners, replace expensive chemicals with less costly alternatives, or push their employees to work faster and longer, according to people at those companies.
“The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,” said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. “And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.”
In January 2010, workers at a Chinese factory owned by Wintek, an Apple manufacturing partner, went on strike over a variety of issues, including widespread rumors that workers were being exposed to toxins. Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.
Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.
Apple commented on the Wintek injuries a year later. In its supplier responsibility report, Apple said it had “required Wintek to stop using n-hexane” and that “Apple has verified that all affected workers have been treated successfully, and we continue to monitor their medical reports until full recuperation.” Apple also said it required Wintek to fix the ventilation system.
That same month, a New York Times reporter interviewed a dozen injured Wintek workers who said they had never been contacted by Apple or its intermediaries, and that Wintek had pressured them to resign and take cash settlements that would absolve the company of liability. After those interviews, Wintek pledged to provide more compensation to the injured workers and Apple sent a representative to speak with some of them.
Six months later, trade publications reported that Apple significantly cut prices paid to Wintek.
“You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.”
Wintek is still one of Apple’s most important suppliers. Wintek, in a statement, declined to comment except to say that after the episode, the company took “ample measures” to address the situation and “is committed to ensuring employee welfare and creating a safe and healthy work environment.”
Many major technology companies have worked with factories where conditions are troubling. However, independent monitors and suppliers say some act differently. Executives at multiple suppliers, in interviews, said that Hewlett-Packard and others allowed them slightly more profits and other allowances if they were used to improve worker conditions.
“Our suppliers are very open with us,” said Zoe McMahon, an executive in Hewlett-Packard’s supply chain social and environmental responsibility program. “They let us know when they are struggling to meet our expectations, and that influences our decisions.”
The Explosion
On the afternoon of the blast at the iPad plant, Lai Xiaodong telephoned his girlfriend, as he did every day. They had hoped to see each other that evening, but Mr. Lai’s manager said he had to work overtime, he told her.
He had been promoted quickly at Foxconn, and after just a few months was in charge of a team that maintained the machines that polished iPad cases. The sanding area was loud and hazy with aluminum dust. Workers wore masks and earplugs, but no matter how many times they showered, they were recognizable by the slight aluminum sparkle in their hair and at the corners of their eyes.
Just two weeks before the explosion, an advocacy group in Hong Kong published a report warning of unsafe conditions at the Chengdu plant, including problems with aluminum dust. The group, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, or Sacom, had videotaped workers covered with tiny aluminum particles. “Occupational health and safety issues in Chengdu are alarming,” the report read. “Workers also highlight the problem of poor ventilation and inadequate personal protective equipment.”
A copy of that report was sent to Apple. “There was no response,” said Debby Chan Sze Wan of the group. “A few months later I went to Cupertino, and went into the Apple lobby, but no one would meet with me. I’ve never heard from anyone from Apple at all.”
The morning of the explosion, Mr. Lai rode his bicycle to work. The iPad had gone on sale just weeks earlier, and workers were told thousands of cases needed to be polished each day. The factory was frantic, employees said. Rows of machines buffed cases as masked employees pushed buttons. Large air ducts hovered over each station, but they could not keep up with the three lines of machines polishing nonstop. Aluminum dust was everywhere.
Dust is a known safety hazard. In 2003, an aluminum dust explosion in Indiana destroyed a wheel factory and killed a worker. In 2008, agricultural dust inside a sugar factory in Georgia caused an explosion that killed 14.
Two hours into Mr. Lai’s second shift, the building started to shake, as if an earthquake was under way. There was a series of blasts, plant workers said.
Then the screams began.
When Mr. Lai’s colleagues ran outside, dark smoke was mixing with a light rain, according to cellphone videos. The toll would eventually count four dead, 18 injured.
At the hospital, Mr. Lai’s girlfriend saw that his skin was almost completely burned away. “I recognized him from his legs, otherwise I wouldn’t know who that person was,” she said.
Eventually, his family arrived. Over 90 percent of his body had been seared. “My mom ran away from the room at the first sight of him. I cried. Nobody could stand it,” his brother said. When his mother eventually returned, she tried to avoid touching her son, for fear that it would cause pain.
“If I had known,” she said, “I would have grabbed his arm, I would have touched him.”
“He was very tough,” she said. “He held on for two days.”
After Mr. Lai died, Foxconn workers drove to Mr. Lai’s hometown and delivered a box of ashes. The company later wired a check for about $150,000.
Foxconn, in a statement, said that at the time of the explosion the Chengdu plant was in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations, and “after ensuring that the families of the deceased employees were given the support they required, we ensured that all of the injured employees were given the highest quality medical care.” After the explosion, the company added, Foxconn immediately halted work in all polishing workshops, and later improved ventilation and dust disposal, and adopted technologies to enhance worker safety.
In its most recent supplier responsibility report, Apple wrote that after the explosion, the company contacted “the foremost experts in process safety” and assembled a team to investigate and make recommendations to prevent future accidents.
In December, however, seven months after the blast that killed Mr. Lai, another iPad factory exploded, this one in Shanghai. Once again, aluminum dust was the cause, according to interviews and Apple’s most recent supplier responsibility report. That blast injured 59 workers, with 23 hospitalized.
“It is gross negligence, after an explosion occurs, not to realize that every factory should be inspected,” said Nicholas Ashford, the occupational safety expert, who is now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “If it were terribly difficult to deal with aluminum dust, I would understand. But do you know how easy dust is to control? It’s called ventilation. We solved this problem over a century ago.”
In its most recent supplier responsibility report, Apple wrote that while the explosions both involved combustible aluminum dust, the causes were different. The company declined, however, to provide details. The report added that Apple had now audited all suppliers polishing aluminum products and had put stronger precautions in place. All suppliers have initiated required countermeasures, except one, which remains shut down, the report said.
For Mr. Lai’s family, questions remain. “We’re really not sure why he died,” said Mr. Lai’s mother, standing beside a shrine she built near their home. “We don’t understand what happened.”
Hitting the Apple Lottery
Every year, as rumors about Apple’s forthcoming products start to emerge, trade publications and Web sites begin speculating about which suppliers are likely to win the Apple lottery. Getting a contract from Apple can lift a company’s value by millions because of the implied endorsement of manufacturing quality. But few companies openly brag about the work: Apple generally requires suppliers to sign contracts promising they will not divulge anything, including the partnership.
That lack of transparency gives Apple an edge at keeping its plans secret. But it also has been a barrier to improving working conditions, according to advocates and former Apple executives.
This month, after numerous requests by advocacy and news organizations, including The New York Times, Apple released the names of 156 of its suppliers. In the report accompanying that list, Apple said they “account for more than 97 percent of what we pay to suppliers to manufacture our products.”
However, the company has not revealed the names of hundreds of other companies that do not directly contract with Apple, but supply the suppliers. The company’s supplier list does not disclose where factories are, and many are hard to find. And independent monitoring organizations say when they have tried to inspect Apple’s suppliers, they have been barred from entry — on Apple’s orders, they have been told.
“We’ve had this conversation hundreds of times,” said a former executive in Apple’s supplier responsibility group. “There is a genuine, companywide commitment to the code of conduct. But taking it to the next level and creating real change conflicts with secrecy and business goals, and so there’s only so far we can go.” Former Apple employees say they were generally prohibited from engaging with most outside groups.
“There’s a real culture of secrecy here that influences everything,” the former executive said.
Some other technology companies operate differently.
“We talk to a lot of outsiders,” said Gary Niekerk, director of corporate citizenship at Intel. “The world’s complex, and unless we’re dialoguing with outside groups, we miss a lot.”
Given Apple’s prominence and leadership in global manufacturing, if the company were to radically change its ways, it could overhaul how business is done. “Every company wants to be Apple,” said Sasha Lezhnev at the Enough Project, a group focused on corporate accountability. “If they committed to building a conflict-free iPhone, it would transform technology.”
But ultimately, say former Apple executives, there are few real outside pressures for change. Apple is one of the most admired brands. In a national survey conducted by The New York Times in November, 56 percent of respondents said they couldn’t think of anything negative about Apple. Fourteen percent said the worst thing about the company was that its products were too expensive. Just 2 percent mentioned overseas labor practices.
People like Ms. White of Harvard say that until consumers demand better conditions in overseas factories — as they did for companies like Nike and Gap, which today have overhauled conditions among suppliers — or regulators act, there is little impetus for radical change. Some Apple insiders agree.
“You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards,” said a current Apple executive.
“And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.”
Gu Huini contributed research.

China Foxconn workers riot at Chengdu restaurant

File photo: Workers at a Foxconn factory in China Foxconn produces electronic goods including the Apple iPad

Related Stories

Scores of workers from Foxconn, Apple's main manufacturer in China, have rioted after a dispute at a restaurant.
State media reported that the incident in Chengdu "was triggered by a conflict" between a group of workers and a restaurant owner.
Foxconn has been criticised for its treatment of workers, but officials said the dispute was not connected to working practices.
Foxconn produces products for Apple and Microsoft, among other companies.
The police said that the seven Foxconn workers were apparently annoyed by an argument between a restaurant owner and his wife on Monday.
The workers said the row had "affected their meal".
A fight broke out, and after the restaurant owner called the police, the workers ran back to their dormitory shouting: "They are beating us."
About 100 of their colleagues then joined the disturbance, throwing bottles, according to a statement published on the police's official microblog.
No-one was reported injured in the incident, but four workers were jailed for the night.
Hon Hai, Foxconn's parent company in Taiwan, told reporters that the seven workers who started the riot were new recruits.
The company said it was co-operating with the police investigation.
A string of suicides at Foxconn last year put the spotlight on working conditions at its factories.
Foxconn has since agreed to reduce hours, protect pay, and improve staff representation.

富士康成都廠傳騷亂?鴻海:員工與餐廳老闆爭執 已由公安調查

華視新聞 -
針 對大陸媒體報導鴻海旗下富士康成都廠,6月4日晚間發生大規模「騷亂」,大陸媒體並以「千人暴亂」報導,表示經歷2小時才獲得控制,鴻海對此表示,經查是 成都富士康幾位新進員工,4日晚間在住宿公寓旁美食街用餐後,餐廳老板起爭執,延伸到返回青年公寓住所時,過程又引起 ...


在5月下旬的報導中,最為引人注目的是《日本經濟新聞》5月24日刊登的題為「夏普與鴻海在中國大陸生產液晶,為對抗南韓企業提供尖端技術」的報導。 該報導稱,夏普將向富士康設在四川省成都市的液晶面板工廠提供尖端技術。該廠將生產智慧手機等產品使用的高畫質中小型面板,目標是在2013年投產。



台灣報紙《經濟日報》(2月28日刊)報導稱,富士康已經在成都設立了「鑫成」、「業成」兩家觸控面板公司。並通過在成都和深圳增設LTPS面板工 廠,似有在承包蘋果公司智慧手機「iPhone」和平板PC「iPad」的組裝的基礎上,再拿下蘋果的配備高精細面板和觸控面板產品的訂單,進一步鞏固其 蘋果主要供應商的地位。



報導出自4月27日中國經濟報紙《經濟觀察報》的新聞網站。報導稱,自從2010年富士康進入成都以來,四川省政府一直在全力支援富士康的招工活動。 四川省各市、縣、村都接到了任務,黨員幹部和政府的公務員頂在招工的第一線,為完成任務費盡心力。更令人吃驚的是,招工的成績還列為了年終考核的項目之 一。據稱達標者會得到獎金,未達標者將處以罰款。

在這種情況下,一位沒能完成任務的26歲女公務員,其領導說「招不到人,只能自己人去」,於是,從投放新iPad之前最為忙碌的2011年12月開 始,她在成都工廠上了大約1個月的夜班。當月的工資由政府和富士康雙方支付。然而,因為不習慣夜晚工作,身體吃不消,從富士康領來的1130元工資幾乎全 都作了醫療費。這位女公務員還說,在四川省綿陽市政府送來的約500人中,甚至包括大學生村官。因為沒有完成任務而到工廠頂工的公務員不是一個兩個。

《經濟觀察報》表示,富士康深圳工廠內部人士4月19日透露,高峰時成都工廠的員工有12萬人,2011年10月為9萬人,到報導刊登的4月底已經減 少到了6萬人左右。該報還指出,成都工廠的離職率極高,有些部門的在職期平均僅為3個月左右。在2011年10月的國慶節前後,由於辭職人員過多,在留下 的員工之中,「因為人手不足,新一代iPad的訂單已經被台灣和碩搶走」的流言不脛而走。






四川省之所以如此力挺富士康,自然是期待該公司給當地帶來巨大的經濟效應和就業機會。中國《21世紀經濟報導》(3月3日)在報導富士康成都第6代 LTPS工廠的動工儀式時,介紹了富士康在經濟上對於四川省的貢獻。報導稱,成都工廠已于2010年7月開始生產iPad。在2011年5月,富士康與該 省綿陽市政府、中國著名電視生產商四川長虹(CHANGHONG)就合作建設年產規模5000萬台的智慧手機生產基地達成了協議。加上成都的LTPS面板 工廠的三項計劃,預計在2015年之前,富士康將為四川省創造6000億元的新產值。


但現如今,認為「把政府資源都集中到一家企業的政府總動員招工之類的做法太不公平。如若其他企業開始要求同樣的待遇之時,事態將變得無法收拾」(「中 國江蘇網」4月29日)的批評之聲也開始出現。富士康無法以地方政府提供的特別待遇為前提與合作對象制定業務規劃的日子或許已經為期不遠了。(特約撰稿 人:山田 泰司,EMSOne)


2012年6月28日 星期四

Multiple Missteps Led To RIM's Fall



David Manning/Reuters
但在Research In Motion Ltd.(簡稱RIM RIMM -0.54% )﹐這事卻沒那麼簡單。這家生產黑莓的公司曾有兩位CEO﹐他們的辦公室之間相隔大約10分鐘的車程。據RIM前高管以及與該公司有來往的人士說﹐兩人很少同時出席會議。

預 計RIM將在週四報告季度營業虧損。該公司走到眼下這步田地是多種因素的合力造成的﹐但前高管說﹐其中之一在於兩名CEO個性不合。前不久在投資者施加越 來越大的壓力之際﹐CEO之一、創始人拉扎里迪斯(Mike Lazaridis)注重的是背水一戰地推出搭載新操作系統的新一代黑莓手機。而聯席CEO鮑爾西利(Jim Balsillie)則開始探索另一條戰略﹐設想授權其他公司使用RIM的自有技術。

兩人現在都已辭去CEO職務﹐曾是拉扎里迪斯副手的 海因斯(Thorsten Heins)在今年1月份取而代之。他正在大力削減成本。RIM說決心堅持撐到年內推出下一代黑莓手機的時候。但海因斯已經聘請投資銀行家尋找各種選項﹐ 且沒有排除將公司賣掉的可能。公司股價12個月下降接近70%﹐市值已經低於50億美元﹐不到峰值時期的十五分之一。

讓 人感到安慰的是﹐RIM還有20多億美元的現金作為緩沖。該公司上個月表示﹐第一財季(截至6月2日)的現金規模可能已經增加。另外公司沒有負債﹐所以有 更多的喘息空間來推出新的手機。RIM說﹐新手機的“黑莓10”(BlackBerry 10)操作系統“為可靠、安全的移動計算樹立了標準”。一位知情人士說﹐RIM曾跟投資銀行家講﹐正在聚精會神地準備推出這款新手機。這位人士說﹐如果新 手機大賣﹐RIM就會挽回失去的部分市值﹐而如果將來出售公司或展開合作﹐新的技術也非常有用。

根據本報對十幾位RIM前高管、與該公司 緊密合作的業內高管的採訪﹐RIM當前問題的根源在於對朴實無華的黑莓產品的盲目自信。據他們描述﹐公司內部關於誰才是核心客戶的持久爭論、一系列為追趕 潮流而推出但並沒有真正讓公司趕上來的產品﹐以及公司各部門之間的矛盾﹐更是讓RIM的問題雪上加霜。

RIM長期以為﹐公司客戶和個人客戶都會繼續喜歡黑莓手機很好用的手機郵件﹐而不是蘋果(Apple Inc. AAPL -0.95% )的iPhone和搭載谷歌(Google Inc. GOOG -0.88% )安卓(Android)操作系統的手機上那些各式各樣的功能和應用程序。當看到消費者逐漸遠離黑莓時﹐RIM試探性地採取了行動。


不只是RIM沒有迅速適應智能手機從通話、電郵終端向口袋式電腦的轉變。曾經的業內龍頭諾基亞(Nokia Corp. NOKBF -11.11% )也已經被迫與微軟(Microsoft Corp. MSFT -0.86% )合作﹐讓後者武裝自己的手機。而隨著在全球智能手機市場中的份額銳減﹐諾基亞還將裁員數千人。

在 RIM﹐高管們最終引進了外部人才﹐但RIM前高管和曾與RIM合作的其他公司高管說﹐RIM本來就已經分裂為拉扎里迪斯和鮑爾西利的陣營﹐引進外部人才 讓公司員工之間的矛盾進一步加劇。據他們說﹐不同團隊有時候相互沖突﹐特別是在這家昔日智能手機王者進一步落後於人的時候。


RIM 還說﹐這種CEO架構多年來一直運轉良好﹐每位聯席CEO都可把注意力放在自己的強項上。該公司說﹐兩位聯席CEO最初共用一間辦公室﹐然後是擁有各自的 辦公室﹐但相互挨著﹐再到後來﹐隨著RIM發展壯大﹐每個CEO都選擇距離自己負責部門最近的辦公室﹐這樣可與其團隊隨時保持互動﹔無論何時﹐他們都有一 種高效、專業的工作關係﹐彼此之間保持了密切溝通。





David Manning/Reuters


RIM 曾為對公司有發明創造貢獻的員工舉辦奢華答謝會。為慶祝公司具有里程碑意義的發展﹐RIM曾請來U2和范•海倫(Van Halen)等樂隊為員工舉行音樂會。在距離多倫多70英里(約合110公里)、建有低矮灰色大樓的公司總部﹐每逢“霜凍星期五”(Frosty Fridays)﹐員工都能免費吃到冰激凌。




在 大約10年前的一個投資者會議上﹐分析師問拉扎里迪斯:RIM是否會轉而研發彩屏手機?當時彩屏手機剛剛在亞洲面世。據當時在美銀證券(Banc of America Securities)擔任分析師的布萊爾(Brian Blair)透露﹐拉扎里迪斯的回答是:我有必要看彩色電子郵件嗎?


那 時﹐RIM的客戶以企業為主﹐它們給員工配備黑莓手機來收發電子郵件。個人用戶當時也在不斷增多﹐吸引他們的一般是該手機的拍照、遊戲和互聯網瀏覽等功 能。RIM曾推出帶攝像頭和MP3播放器功能的手機﹐如2006年的Pearl和2007年的Curve等。2007年﹐蘋果iPhone問世。

RIM的運營商伙伴仍擔心﹐iPhone的風靡可能會讓蘋果擁有超乎尋常的市場影響力。知情人士說﹐Verizon Communications Inc. VZ +0.43% 和沃達豐空中通訊公司(Vodafone Group PLC VODPF 0.00% )的高管找到RIM﹐希望與之共同推出一部能與iPhone抗衡的手機。它們的合作促成RIM發佈了首款觸屏手機Storm。

時任沃達豐高管的克諾克(Pieter Knook)說﹐沃達豐開始到處遊說:幫我們開發一款能與iPhone競爭的創新產品吧。克諾克說﹐拉扎里迪斯為此推出了Storm全觸屏手機。

但時任Verizon總裁的斯特里格爾(Denny Strigl)說﹐雖然Storm賣得很好﹐但跟iPhone相比﹐算不上是強有力的競爭對手。

Mike Cassese/Reuters
RIM 前聯席CEO拉扎里迪斯和鮑爾西利
RIM的兩名前任高管說﹐2010年﹐美國電話電報公司(AT&T Inc. T +0.57% ) 曾主動與RIM接觸﹐商談開發與iPhone相抗衡的觸屏手機的計劃。AT&T當時是蘋果的獨家合作運營商。知情人士說﹐AT&T移動業 務部門的負責人拜訪了RIM在滑鐵盧的研發團隊﹐向他們強調﹐對於AT&T來說﹐銷售一款成功的黑莓產品是多麼重要。RIM說﹐此行是為了給 AT&T的客戶創造一種獨特且具差異化的黑莓手機用戶體驗。



RIM 的高管還曾忽視了一些公司內部的警報。知情人士說﹐公司的銷售部門在2010年撰寫了一份探討有觸感鍵盤未來前景的研究報告。這種易於用拇指操作的鍵盤在 黑莓手機剛推出時深受用戶喜愛。報告警告說﹐在蘋果的觸屏手機大行其道的時代﹐鍵盤手機的市場份額將越來越小。這些人士說﹐這一警告沒有引起RIM管理層 的注意。

鮑爾西利曾在當年的一次會議上問到﹐RIM是否應該對新的趨勢感到擔憂。他所說的趨勢是﹐消費者帶著自己私人的智能手機去上班﹐ 並向雇主提出允許他們用這些智能手機工作的請求。一些高管說﹐這個趨勢對RIM構成了威脅﹔也有少數人表示自己並不為此感到擔心。與RIM關係密切的一位 人士說﹐鮑爾西利屬於後者。RIM拒絕透露有關公司內部非公開討論的信息。

隨著蘋果和安卓設備逐漸侵吞黑莓的市場份額﹐拉扎里迪斯開始在 公司外部尋求創新﹐聘請了新的營銷團隊和一些高管。2010年4月﹐RIM收購了QNX Software Systems Ltd.﹐QNX是一家汽車和醫療設備用電腦操作系統的提供商。RIM當時正準備開發一款與iPad相抗衡的電腦﹐高管們決定這款電腦將搭載QNX的操作 系統﹐並將其命名為PlayBook。


這 些人士說﹐這兩名CEO私下裡定期見面﹐即使不見面﹐也會向對方發送即時信息或打電話﹐以交流想法﹐匯報彼此的業務進展。但是在RIM陷入困境時﹐他們更 多是在不同的世界埋頭苦幹。這些人士說﹐分別向他們二人匯報工作的兩個團隊甚至可以說從未有效溝通過。公司的一些項目有可能在兩位CEO誰都未發現問題苗 頭的情況下走入歧途﹐兩個團隊間的分歧有時甚至要靠大吵大嚷來解決。







 Multiple Missteps Led To RIM's Fall
 As the BlackBerry smartphone fell steadily further behind app-loaded rivals like the iPhone in recent years, it was time for an unambiguous response from the chief executive's office.

At Research In Motion Ltd., however, that was complicated. The BlackBerry maker had two chief executives. Moreover, their offices were about a 10-minute drive apart. Meetings with both of them present were rare, say former RIM executives and people who dealt with the company.

Many forces have combined to bring RIM to the point of reporting a quarterly operating loss, as is expected on Thursday, but one of them was a split personality in the executive suite, former executives say. As investor pressure mounted at the company recently, one CEO, company founder Mike Lazaridis, was focused on a make-or-break push to launch a next-generation BlackBerry with a new operating system. His co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, started pursuing a separate strategy that envisioned licensing out some of the company's proprietary technologies.

Both men are gone from the CEO suite now, replaced in January by former Lazaridis lieutenant Thorsten Heins. He is slashing costs. RIM says it is committed to seeing through the rollout later this year of its next BlackBerry. But Mr. Heins has hired investment bankers to explore options and hasn't ruled out a sale of a company, whose stock has tanked nearly 70% in 12 months and pushed its market value, at under $5 billion, to less than one-fifteenth of its peak.

RIM still has a comfortable cash cushion of more than $2 billion, which it said last month is likely to have grown in its fiscal first quarter ended June 2. It also is debt-free, giving it more breathing room to get out its new phone, with an operating system called BlackBerry 10 that RIM says 'sets the standard for reliable, secure mobile computing.' RIM has told its bankers it is focused on that rollout, said a person familiar with the matter. If the phone is a hit, the company will recover some of its lost value, and the new technology will be a boon to any possible sale or partnership in the future, this person said.

According to interviews with more than a dozen former RIM executives and industry executives who worked closely with the company, it was a blinding confidence in the basic BlackBerry product that was at the root of RIM's current troubles. Compounding that, as they describe the events, were a drawn-out internal debate over who their core customer was; a series of catch-up products that didn't really catch the company up; and tensions within parts of the company.

The bet long made by RIM was that both corporate and individual customers would continue to favor the BlackBerry's easy-to-use mobile email over the multiplying features and apps on Apple Inc.'s iPhone and devices running on Google Inc.'s GOOG +0.82% Android operating system. When it saw consumers starting to gravitate away from BlackBerrys, RIM moved tentatively.

At one point, RIM worked to challenge the iPhone with telecom carriers that were fearful of Apple's dominance. The new models that came out of these collaborations, however, failed to generate iPhone-like buzz.

RIM isn't alone in failing to adapt quickly to the transformation of smartphones from devices to talk and email into pocket-size computers. Once-dominant Nokia Corp. has been forced into a partnership with Microsoft Corp. to equip its phones to compete, and is slashing thousands of jobs as its share of the global smartphone market erodes.

At RIM, executives eventually brought in outside talent, but that raised tensions inside the ranks of a company that already harbored separate Lazaridis and Balsillie fiefs, some former RIM executives and executives who have worked with RIM say. According to them, the separate teams sometimes clashed, especially as the onetime smartphone leader slipped further behind.

RIM, in a statement, said the split-personality characterization wasn't accurate. 'As with any innovative company there were times when various people within the organization disagreed, but this was not the norm,' it said.

'The CEO structure worked well for many years and allowed each of the co-CEOs to focus on their areas of strength,' RIM added. It said the co-CEOs started out sharing an office, had offices next to each other, and then, 'as RIM grew, they each took offices closest to those areas each supervised in order to stay close to their teams. At all times, they had an efficient, professional working relationship and were in close communication.'

Mr. Heins, soon after taking over as CEO early this year, put an end to the strategy pursued by one CEO: Mr. Balsillie's licensing initiative. RIM said it doesn't discuss nonpublic internal deliberations.

Mr. Balsillie has given up his board seat. Mr. Lazaridis remains nonexecutive vice chairman.

'Successful companies take what they can learn from every situation and use that to push forward,' Mr. Lazaridis said, noting that he and Mr. Balsillie 'felt it was the right time in RIM's life cycle to turn the leadership of the company over to someone else.' Mr. Balsillie didn't respond to requests for comment.

RIM didn't make Mr. Heins available, citing a quiet period before the earnings release.

RIM essentially invented email on the go. Founded by Mr. Lazaridis in 1984 with a $15,000 loan from his parents, the company grew to a stock-market value of more than $80 billion at its zenith in 2008, controlling about half the U.S. smartphone market.

RIM hosted lavish banquets for its inventors. To mark milestones, it treated employees to concerts by bands such as U2 and Van Halen. At the company's campus of low-slung gray buildings 70 miles from Toronto, employees got free ice cream on 'Frosty Fridays.'

Amid its cost-cutting, RIM isn't giving up entirely on ice cream days. 'Ice cream is a relatively low-cost way to build stronger bonds within our team,' RIM said.

Mr. Balsillie, who came aboard in 1992 after having explored a takeover bid for the company, and Mr. Lazaridis became Canada's best-known billionaires, each funneling chunks of wealth to pet projects. Mr. Lazaridis built a theoretical-physics institute. Mr. Balsillie started a school for global governance and tried unsuccessfully to buy three professional hockey teams.

Behind the success was Mr. Lazaridis's unrelenting vision for robust engineering and innovation and Mr. Balsillie's push for market expansion. But former executives say there was also an aversion at the company to innovations that didn't buttress its core strengths: its proprietary network and reputation for security.

At an investor meeting about a decade ago, analysts asked Mr. Lazaridis whether RIM was moving to a color screen, a feature popping up on devices in Asia. 'Do I need to read my email in color?' he replied, according to Brian Blair, then an analyst with Banc of America Securities.

RIM says that at the time, color screens were impractical, with high costs and high battery drain. It says it was among the first to adopt color displays just a few years later.

RIM's customers then were overwhelmingly companies, which gave their employees BlackBerrys for email. But a growing number were individuals, often eager for features such as cameras, games and Internet browsing. RIM brought out devices with cameras and MP3 players including the Pearl in 2006 and the Curve in 2007-the year the iPhone came out.

Still, RIM's carrier partners worried that the wild popularity of the iPhone could give Apple outsize influence in the market. Executives at Verizon Communications Inc. VZ -0.14% and Vodafone Group PLC approached RIM to work together on a phone that could compete with the iPhone, say people familiar with the matter. The collaboration resulted in RIM's first touch-screen device, the Storm.

'Vodafone started really rushing around saying, 'Helps us build an innovative competitor to the iPhone,' ' said Pieter Knook, a Vodafone executive at the time. He said Mr. Lazaridis came up with the Storm's marquee innovation, a touch screen that physically clicked.

The Storm 'sold very well,' but wasn't a strong competitor to the iPhone, said Denny Strigl, at the time president of Verizon.

In 2010, AT&T Inc., T +0.60% then Apple's exclusive carrier partner, approached RIM about a plan to develop a touch-screen rival to the iPhone, said two former RIM executives. The chief of AT&T's mobile division visited RIM's research and development team in Waterloo to stress how important it was for AT&T to have a successful BlackBerry product to sell, according to people familiar with the visit. RIM said the objective of the visit was to develop 'a differentiated, unique BlackBerry experience for AT&T customers.'

'We work with all device makers to bring the best products to market for our customers,' AT&T said.

A RIM-AT&T collaboration resulted in the BlackBerry Torch, say people familiar with the effort, but it was hobbled by hardware and software shortcomings.

RIM executives also missed some internal warnings. The sales division produced a research report in 2010 on the future of tactile keyboards, the thumb-friendly feature that was a favorite in the early days of the BlackBerry. The report warned that in the era of Apple's touch-only devices, keyboards would make up a diminishing share of the market, according to a person familiar with it, who said the warning was ignored.

During a meeting the same year, Mr. Balsillie asked if RIM should be worried about a new trend: consumers bringing their own smartphones to work and asking their employer to let them work on the devices. Some executives said the trend was a threat; a few said they weren't worried. Mr. Balsillie went with the latter view, said a person close to the company. RIM said it doesn't discuss nonpublic 'internal company deliberations.'

As Apple and Android devices ate into BlackBerry's market share, Mr. Lazaridis started looking outside for innovation, bringing in a new marketing team and other top executives. In April 2010 RIM bought QNX Software Systems, a maker of operating systems for cars and medical devices. RIM was readying a tablet to compete with the iPad, and executives decided that they would use QNX to power the device, called the PlayBook.

According to people close to the company, the acquisition stoked tensions between the teams led by Mr. Lazaridis, who was in charge of product development, manufacturing and R&D, and Mr. Balsillie, who ran carrier partnerships, sales and marketing.

The two CEOs met in person fairly regularly, and would send instant messages or call each other to bounce ideas around or get progress reports when they weren't in the same room. But as RIM hit trouble, they were more often than not toiling in very different worlds, according to these people, who say the teams reporting up to the two didn't communicate effectively if at all. Some projects would go astray before either co-CEO noticed, these people say, and disagreements between the two sides sometimes devolved into shouting matches.

The QNX leadership team reported directly to Mr. Lazaridis, bypassing Mr. Balsillie and other top RIM officers, rankling them, according to people familiar with the situation.

Meanwhile, by late 2011, Mr. Balsillie was deep into his own project, an effort aimed at licensing some of RIM's proprietary technology, such as its security network and its popular BBM messaging tool, to outside companies. Some analysts had long suggested such a move to boost revenue and buy the company more time as it readied its new phone.

Mr. Balsillie and a team under him struck licensing agreements with several partners, including carriers, according to people familiar with the effort. The deals would have allowed other smartphone makers and the carriers to use RIM's network for a fee.

But by the end of last year, RIM shares were hitting eight-year lows. On Jan. 22, the board, led by Messrs. Lazaridis and Balsillie as co-chairmen, said the two would step aside. They remained big shareholders and each kept a board seat.

Within a week of becoming CEO, Mr. Heins, a Lazaridis lieutenant, scuttled the licensing plan, people familiar with it said. He said he would focus a slimmed-down RIM on rolling out its new BlackBerry phones.

為何鍾情香港?/ 我看臺灣這四十六年(鄒至莊)

20120627 06:13 AM
美國普林斯頓大學經濟學榮譽教授 鄒至莊 為英國《金融時報》中文網撰稿











Lex專欄:Prada為何鍾情香港?Prada’s IPO英國《金融時報》 Lex專欄

Prada has packaged its initial public offering in a typically artful way. The Milan-based fashion house has chosen to list in Hong Kong, it says, largely because of its proximity to China, the world's fastest-growing luxury goods market. But Prada has just 14 stores across the entire mainland, fewer than in Tokyo. Its aggressive expansion plan (the primary justification for selling shares) is to fill holes in its global network rather than in China – it has no stores in Stockholm, Barcelona or Brussels, or anywhere in Russia or Brazil. An outlet on every Chinese corner, after all, makes little sense. High taxes mean that a large portion of luxury items is bought offshore.
Prada對其首次公開發行(IPO)的“包裝”具有它典型的設計感。這家總部位於米蘭的時裝公司選擇了在香港上市。該公司表示,這主要是因為這裡毗鄰全球增長最為迅速的奢侈品市場——中國內地。但Prada在整個中國內地僅有14家門店,還不及東京一個城市多。該公司的大規模擴張計劃(這是發行股票的主要理由)旨在填補其全球網絡(而非中國)的空白——該公司還沒有在斯德哥爾摩、巴塞羅那、布魯塞爾以及俄羅斯或巴西的任何城市開店畢竟,把門店開到中國的所有角落沒什麼意義。這裡的高稅率意味著,中國人很大一部分奢侈品是在海外購買的。If executives were entirely honest, they would admit that the IPO is where it is because that is where valuations for trophy assets are highest. Christie's, the auctioneer, broke 36 world records at its Hong Kong Spring sales, concluded earlier this month; 10 Pollock's Path, an 8,302 sq f​​t propertyon The Peak, sold last week for a record HK$800m (US$103m). If Prada prices on Friday at the midpoint of its indicative range, the equity would be valued at 24 times this year's earnings, significantly ahead of a clutch-bag of rivals in Paris, London and Milan.
如果該公司的高管們完全誠實的話,那麼他們將承認,把IPO設在香港,是因為那裡對炫耀性資產的估值最高。拍賣行佳士得(Christie's)本月早些時候結束的香港春拍打破了36項世界紀錄;位於香港太平山一處8302平方英尺的豪宅——香港普樂道10號(10 Pollock's Path)上週賣出了創紀錄的8億港元(合1.03億美元)。如果Prada週五公佈的定價位於指導價區間的中點,那麼其股票今年的預測市盈率將為24倍,遠遠超過其在巴黎、倫敦和米蘭的同行業競爭對手。Prada is truly a “trophy asset.” Unlike most of its European competitors, the company has an undiluted exposure to the top end of luxury. It will also be the only Italian stock, and the only luxury stock of size, listed in Hong Kong . That institutions have subscribed for five times the shares available suggests they are ignoring the network expansion, which can only weaken margins. They are essentially showing the same lust for shiny baubles as the taitais queuing outside Prada's flagship Hong Kong store on Canton Road. You 've bought the handbag; now buy the share.