Inspectors slam conditions in Apple factories

Foxconn signs up to remediation deal after report finds 50 faults with working conditions

Stewart Mitchell
30 Mar 2012

The Fair Labor Association has told Apple and supplier Foxconn to clean up their act after an investigation found at least 50 breaches of code and labour laws.

Apple – and other tech manufacturers - have come under scrutiny over the way workers are treated, with critics bemoaning low wages, poor working conditions and long hours.

Apple moved to quell the complaints by bringing in the FLA, but after interviewing 35,000 staff at Foxconn factories making Apple goods, inspectors drew up a plan for change after finding dozens of issues.

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The FLA said its investigation found that, over the past year, all three factories inspected exceeded both the FLA Code standard of 60 hours per week (regular plus overtime) and the Chinese legal limits of 40 hours per week and 36 hours maximum overtime per month.

According to the inspectors, during peak production periods, the average number of hours worked per week exceeded 60 hours per worker, with some employees working more than seven days in a row without the required day off.

If implemented, these commitments will significantly improve the lives of more than 1.2 million Foxconn employees

On top of excessive hours, the FLA said it also found problems with overtime compensation, several health and safety risks and crucial communication gaps that have led to a widespread sense of unsafe working conditions among workers.

“FLA observed other serious issues in areas such as health and safety, worker integration and communication, treatment of interns, and China’s social security enrollment, among others,” the association said in its report.

Shorter hours, same pay

According to a remediation plan laid out in the report, Foxconn will look to address the issues and bring the company into line with FLA practices and local laws by July 2013.

The supplier agreed to limit working hours to the legal level of 49 hours per week, including overtime, which would mean a reduction in monthly overtime hours from 80 to 36, although workers are not expected to lose income because a new pay scheme will be put in place to make up the shortfall. 64% of workers interviewed said their salaries currently didn't meet their basic needs.

“If implemented, these commitments will significantly improve the lives of more than 1.2 million Foxconn employees and set a new standard for Chinese factories,” said Auret van Heerden, CEO of the Fair Labor Association.

The move comes in the same week as Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Foxconn's plants in China.

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