The results are in: the Fair Labor Association has issued a report on Apple device assembler Foxconn, stating it found “significant issues with working conditions at three factories in China” operated by the major Apple supply chain member.
As Mashable reports, the FLA released its report after being hired by Apple to independently audit Foxconn’s facilities, following a New York Times article that claimed the supplier was subjecting workers to long hours and dangerous conditions that laborers in Western nations wouldn’t tolerate. Apple denied the claims, but has since been active in working to shore-up issues and head off a public image in which Apple exploits Chinese workers in order to bring iPhones and iPads to market cheaply.
The FLA, a group created and funded by companies from a variety of industries, said it found that most of the 35,000 Foxconn employees that responded to its anonymous survey said they were working too many hours – often more than FLA’s limit of 60 hours per week – and that their pay wasn’t meeting their basic requirements. The independent agency said it would conduct a cost of living assessment in Chinese cities where Foxconn has its plants, Shenzhen and Chengdu, in order to “assist Foxconn in determining whether worker salaries meet FLA requirements for basic needs, as well as discretionary income,” the report says.
As for hours, the FLA said it found situations in which workers would put in more than seven days’ worth of work in at the plants in a row, without receiving the FLA’s minimum of 24 hours off. It also noted that, in addition to exceeding the FLA’s 60-hours-per-week cap, the number of hours some Foxconn employees were putting in exceeded China’s legal limit of 40 hours per week plus 36 hours of overtime.
Despite the findings, the FLA’s report is already controversial. From the beginning of the process in which Apple hired the organization to audit Foxconn’s plants, critics have said the whole exercise was just for show and that they don’t trust the FLA’s findings. The organization essentially works for Apple, as well as its other stakeholders; activist group SumOfUs had already dismissed the report before it was released, Mashable reports, saying that Apple hired the FLA as a PR move rather than a real effort to improve working conditions.
Apple CEO Tim Cook visited China this week and toured a Foxconn plant in Zhenzhou, and also had meetings with the mayor of Beijing and China’s vice premier. The on-going story is made more complex by the fact that one of Apple’s biggest and most visible critics, actor Mike Daisey, has recently come under fire after it was revealed that claims Daisey made about things he’d seen during his own trip to China regarding Foxconn’s practices have been greatly embellished.
As things stand now, the FLA’s report can be seen here, and will likely lead to Apple pressuring Foxconn to make at least some changes to working conditions in its facilities in China. Just how much those changes may actually alleviate the real labor problems in Apple’s supply chain will have to be assessed later.