Is Apple Embarrassed About the iPhone 5 Debut?

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Timed to coincide with the big launch of the iPhone 5 on Friday, an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) workers’ union is planning to hold protests outside the company’s stores with its own demands and to mark “solidarity” with employees at Foxconn factories in China. The Apple Workers Union is targeting its “Day of Solidarity” at stores in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, China, and Japan, the eight countries where the iPhone 5 goes on sale on Friday.

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“One more suicide is one more too many; it needs to stop,” the union said in an announcement on its website, referring to the cases of worker suicides reported from the factories of Foxconn, Apple’s main manufacturing partner. Apple and Foxconn have been under fire for a few months now over issues of worker safety, conditions, pay, and overtime. “Apple appears to be making good on promises but they can do more. Every worker deserves fair pay for a fair work day without overtime and harassment by managers,” the statement added.

The union, which was formed last year in a store-by-store effort as an employee-driven initiative, also wants workers to protest about the recent changes introduced by the company’s retail chief, John Browett, according to CNET. Last month, Browett had authorized the implementation of a new employee management system, which eventually resulted in cutting hours for some store workers and left some Apple stores understaffed. While Browett was reported to have apologized to employees in an internal memo, saying the company “messed up,” the union wants stronger action.

“Reports of unethical and even illegal actions by managers [include] forced work off the clock, changing work schedules once they’re posted and doing so without notice, and even engaging in improper relationships,” the union said. “We’re also demanding simple things such as fairness and transparency in hiring and promotions, and the immediate re-hire of workers ‘laid off’ by Browett’s ‘mess up’ in August.”

An independent union in France, called the Solidaires Unitaires Democratiques, joined the Apple union in asking for better benefits and basic amenities such as access to fresh drinking water for store workers. SUD Secretary Laurent Degousee told CNET that the union was demanding rest breaks for employees, drinking water, and vouchers to pay for meals at local restaurants. It also wants a 13th month of pay at the end of the year and a bonus of 8 percent for each worker.

The Apple Workers Union plans to take the protests to stores in Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, and Sweden on September 28, the day the iPhone 5 is set to arrive there.

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