Foxconn Makes Progress on Worker Conditions in Chinese Plants

By Ed Silverstein August 22, 2012

Foxconn – a key Apple supplier – has made definite progress in improving working conditions at three facilities in China, according to the Fair Labor Association (FLA). The FLA reported that some 195 actions were completed. In addition, 89 actions were completed ahead of schedule. Another 76 improvements are supposed to be made over the next year.

“Our verification shows that the necessary changes, including immediate health and safety measures, have been made. We are satisfied that Apple has done its due diligence thus far to hold Foxconn accountable for complying with the action plan, including the commitment to reform its internship program,” Auret van Heerden, president and CEO of the Fair Labor Association, said in an organization statement. “When we finished our initial investigation in March, Foxconn promised to address concerns with its internship program by ensuring that student interns do not work overtime, their work has a more direct connection to their field of study, and they understand that they are free to terminate the internship if and when they wish.”

Also, Foxconn made improvements to make sure its factories comply with Chinese law on working hours – by July 2013. Foxconn reduced hours to fewer than 60 per week (including overtime). The Chinese legal limit is 40 hours per week plus an average of 9 hours of overtime per week. The three facilities were investigated between June 25 and July 6, 2012 to check progress on improvements.

“The next phase of improvements will be challenging for Foxconn because they involve major changes in the working environment that will inevitably cause uncertainty and anxiety among workers. As Foxconn prepares to comply with the Chinese legal limits on work hours, consultation with workers on the changes and implications will be critical to a successful transition,” van Heerden said.

In addition, during the recent inspections investigators found changes made to improve worker health and safety. They include ergonomic breaks, changing the design of workers’ equipment to prevent repetitive stress injuries, new policies to ensure equipment is working properly, and testing of protective equipment like eyewashes and sprinklers. Consultants were also hired to provide health and safety training for the employees.

“The verification confirmed that Apple and Foxconn are ahead of schedule in improving the conditions under which some of the world's most popular electronics are being made,” van Heerden added. “Apple and Foxconn’s progress since the March assessment, combined with the additional actions planned through July 2013, would create the roadmap for all Chinese suppliers in the tech industry.”

The FLA is a coalition of universities, non-governmental organizations and businesses committed to improving working conditions.

The factories make much of the world’s iPads and iPhones, according to a report from Reuters.

In a recent statement quoted by Reuters, Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, said, “We’ve been making steady progress in reducing excessive work hours throughout our supply chain. We track working hours weekly for over 700,000 workers and currently have 97 percent compliance with the 60-hour maximum workweek specified in our code of conduct.”

However, China Labor Watch issued a statement this week about its concerns over Foxconn workers.

“Workers have to complete the workload of 66 hours before within 60 hours now per week,” China Labor Watch said. “As a result, the workers get lower wages but have to work much harder.”

In related news, TechZone360 reported that Samsung has investigated allegations that children are working at one of its suppliers in a factory in China. Samsung conducted its own inspections at the HEG Electronics (Huizhou) Co., Ltd. China Labor Watch alleged the children were earning 70 percent of the salaries earned by other employees.  Also, the child workers were placed in dangerous tasks, the organization added.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

TechZone360 Contributor

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