Apple’s Foxconn Promises to Treat Workers Better

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Photo: PETER PARKS/2012 AFP

Following a New York Times investigative series, Mike Daisey's fabrications, and Tim Cook's China trip, Foxconn, Apple's largest supplier, has agreed to stop abusing its workers. During an inspection by the Fair Labor Association that lasted almost a month, the group "found excessive overtime and 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." In some cases, according to the report, some of the 35,000 employees surveyed at three Chinese facilities were found to have worked more than 60 hours a week for nearly two weeks in a row. 

In the FLA's interviews with employees, 64 percent said their pay does not meet their basic needs. Demographically, more than 60 percent of workers were found to be male, with an average age of about 23. More than 3 percent of Foxconn employees are between the ages of 16 and 18.

Foxconn now says it will match FLA standards and legal Chinese limits by July 2013, with no employee working more than 49 hours per week. The Times reports:

Experts say such promises will likely require Foxconn to hire tens of thousands of new employees as well as raise wages, steps that could cost it hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Those moves, in turn, are likely to influence the prices paid by Foxconn’s customers, which include every major electronics company, and could increase the retail cost of consumer electronics products like smart phones and tablets unless Apple and others accept lower profit margins.

In a statement, Apple said, "We think empowering workers and helping them understand their rights is essential. Our team has been working for years to educate workers, improve conditions and make Apple’s supply chain a model for the industry, which is why we asked the F.L.A. to conduct these audits."