Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been involved in quite a few clashes with worker-rights groups regarding working conditions at manufacturing centers around the world, most recently with China-based Foxconn. Apparently in France now, Apple is being scrutinized for the working conditions in its Apple Stores.
A number of employees in France’s 12 Apple Stores have agreed to walk out on the job; and in a stroke of gamesmanship, decided it would strike Friday, the day of the iPhone 5 launch, which is expected to be one of the busiest days of the year at its retail facilities. A French union which represents about one-fourth of Apple Store employees in the country, has claimed poor working conditions for its workers and had been working with the company to work out some improvements, but felt compelled to initiate the strike.
The SUD union represents about 250 of the 1,000 Apple Store employees in France. The other unions who represent the remaining employees, are not participating in the strike.
“We’re inviting all the employees who consider insufficient the advances made as part of annual labor negotiations and think Apple isn’t showing enough of an interest in its French employees to join us tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. in front of the Opera Apple Store,” said SUD chief Thomas Bordage. The union has been fighting Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) for drinking fountains in the stores, meal vouchers and a 13th month of salary which has been generally accepted practice with French businesses.
This is not new for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), though; there were reports that workers at an Apple Store in Rome, Italy, walked out last year on the day the iPhone 4S was released. While there are reports that Apple will be short on iPhones for its launch due to heavy pre-orders, another challenge might be a lack of employees to handle the volume of customers on launch day or weekend. While this may not dramatically affect investors in Apple stock – like hedge-fund manager David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital – it could have an effect on long-term image if customer service suffers.