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Inspectors slam conditions in Apple factories

Apple

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 30 Mar 2012 at 08:47

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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User comments

I misjudged the FLA

It would appear to be quite independent after all.

That Foxconn get away with saying "we will cease our law-breaking next year" is telling. I'm certain no (non-influential) individual could get away with such a proposal.

By dubiou on 30 Mar 2012

Not Apple Factories

Sorry, but Apple don't have any factories!

I'm no Apple fanboy, but these are Foxconn factories, where they make goods for a wide range of companies, including Microsoft, HP, Dell and a dozen or so other companies, all in the same factory, using the same employees, so how come they are "Apple's Factories"?

I don't like seeing Apple get an easy ride, but on the other hand the headline is very misleading.

By big_D on 30 Mar 2012

@dubiou

On the one hand yes, they should change their ways quickly, on the other hand, they have over 200,000 staff at the affected factories, if they are working well over the allowed overtime limits and working 7 day shifts, you are going to be looking at between a 30% and 50% increase in manpower to take up the slack.

That means finding up to 100,000 additional workers and, before you can do that, building additional accomodation and facilities for those workers.

I would like to see them solve the problem more quickly, but making new buildings for 100,000 people in under a year is still fairly impressive - assuming they aren't making a barrack room that sleeps 100,000...

By big_D on 30 Mar 2012

I'm afraid this won't change until our desire for cheap gadgets is surpassed by our will to see a fairer world for all. Unfortunately, directly or indirectly, we're all to blame.

By CraigieDD on 30 Mar 2012

I'm with big_D on this - they are ultimately Foxconn factories, not Apple. As CraigieDD says, it is an inevitable outcome of the continual requirement for cheap hardware - we know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

By halsteadk on 30 Mar 2012

@CraigieDD

True, but what about when the gadgets aren't cheap?

And I wonder who will be squeezed as a result of the report? Foxconn who makes $7 profit per handset, or Apple who makes $350 profit per iphone. At the end of the day, if Foxconn can't produce units to Apple's specified cost, iphone production will just move to someone else who can (in a factory far away from prying eyes and even more secure from those pesky whistle-blowers).

By TheHonestTruth on 30 Mar 2012

@ThehonestTruth

You've nailed it there!

The reason Apple and the others are using Chinise factories is PROFIT (theirs of course!).

They choose China becuase its an authoritarian state without the proper rule of Law. That makes for a very 'business friendly' laissesz faire attitude towards anything (like Health & Safety, Unions, proper working conditions, working hours, Pay etc) that might increase costs \ reduce profits.

They use proxies like Foxconn both in order to gain flexibility (zero invetment in plant or labour) and 'deniability' ('it's not us, its [insert factory name here]').


Apple can't complain about being 'targeted'. Only a few months aggo Jobs was quoted in the recent bio\hagiography boasting about how they'd (that's Apple's OEM factories) mobilised 8,000 workers 'overnight' to attend to some whim or another.....

Apple also took full credit for the ultra low investment \ high profit model it has pioneeered ('Designed in Cupertino Ca. made in ...') so you can't take the credit without taking responsibility for the bad stuff too.

Are any of the other makers, like HP etc any better? I doubt it until as Craigie_DD says, we lose our desire for cheaply made shiny things.

By wittgenfrog on 30 Mar 2012

@big_D

I don't think the headline is misleading as the inspection was carried out in factories making Apple products on behalf of Apple. Obviously other vendors take advantage of the low manufacturing costs implicit in the way Foxconn work.
However Steve Jobs is on record saying that he relied on Foxconn working practices to be effective in launching new products in volume. I suspect Apple are Foxconn's most demanding customer.

By milliganp on 30 Mar 2012

@milliganp

Yes, Apple kit is made there, alongside kit for other companies on the same lines...

A headline that said the FLA had inspected Foxconn for Apple would have been fine.

The headline implies Apple owns and is responsible for the factories, which they are not. They might be able to put some pressure on Foxconn to either cut corners and overwork staff or force Foxconn to pay them more and work less, but they have no direct say, other than stopping doing business with Foxconn - along with all the others involved.

By big_D on 30 Mar 2012

@milliganp

"I suspect Apple are Foxconn's most demanding customer"

Yes, by quite a stretch, I imagine. But is that the price of making a mobile phone "magic"?

And no other company demands the same paranoid level of security and secrecy as our fruity friends do. Foxconn beatings, anyone? Yes, I know it's Foxconn doing the deed, but you've never heard of anyone getting blackjacked for snapping an Inspiron.

By TheHonestTruth on 30 Mar 2012

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