Last month, Apple called upon the Fair Labor Association to perform an audit on its overseas manufacturer Foxconn after several months of scrutiny regarding unfair working conditions. Today, the non-profit labor organization has shared the results of its investigation, and there are a number of different labor violations as expected.
The violations primarily relate to excessive working hours, low wages, unpaid overtime, and health concerns. The good news, however, is that there does not appear to be any underage workers employed by Foxconn, nor do the manufacturing plants resemble sweatshops. Working conditions at Foxconn are better than most people think, and don’t come close to the fabricated story told by dramatist Mike Daisey. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of improvements that need to be made.
According to the FLA, its staff spent over 3,000 hours inside three Foxconn factories — in Guanlan, Longhua, and Chengdu — observing labor conditions, as well as chewing through policies and records. FLA anonymously surveyed over 35,000 Foxconn employees about their working conditions, including overtime hours, pay, health and safety, and the overall environment of the Foxconn factories.
Based on all this data, the FLA found that in all three factories, employees spent more hours working at peak production time than is legal in China, or under the FLA Code. Some workers were not given their 24-hours of downtime, and had to work up to seven days in a row.
Both Apple and Foxconn have agreed to work with the FLA to help reduce these labor violations from occurring. Foxconn will begin by reducing the number of hours that its employees work from over 60 to a more acceptable 49 hours per week, which is an acceptable number of weekly work hours permitted under Chinese labor laws.
After looking at all of these issues, the FLA has asked Foxconn and Apple to take several steps to improve working conditions. Both companies have agreed to the steps, which include opening up avenues between workers and the health and safety committees, and changing the way accidents are reported. Foxconn promises to have all of its employees working the legal amount of hours or less by July 1, 2013, without disrupting wage laws.
During his trip to China, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently visited the newly constructed Foxconn plant at Zhengzhou Technology Park. While some critics have labeled this visit by Cook as an attempt to get some good PR coverage, it could also relate to Cook’s previous statement about Apple caring deeply about every one of its workers. There is no denying that Apple has been working hard to improve its supply chain working conditions over the past several months, and the Cupertino-based company looks committed to keeping that promise.