Last month, Apple asked the FLA to investigate Foxconn's China factories. Its resulting report found factory executives need to do more to protect workers' rights and improve working conditions.
While not as
shocking as some critics predicted, a new report about working conditions at
Foxconnthe Chinese factory now famous for churning out Apple products, as well
as other electronicspaints a grim picture of exhausting working conditions and
a disregard for workers rights.
The degree to
which the report will improve workers' experiences is unclear, but it succeeds
in shedding light on the often-overlooked conditions that produce affordable
electronics for consumers and businesses in the United States and Western
Europe. While Apple is not the only company that uses Foxconn, its iconic
status has made it a focal point of recent protests.
announced Feb. 13 that the
Fair Labor Association (FLA) was beginning investigations into labor rights
launched at Foxconn, its China-based supplier largely
responsible for assembling iPhones and iPads, along with a good deal of the
world's consumer electronics. On March 29, the FLA released
on its findings, following what it calls an "in-depth,
top-down and bottom-up examination of the entire operation."
surveyed nearly 35,000 randomly selected Foxconn workers and logged nearly
3,000 staff hours at factories in Chengdu, Longhua and Guanlan, and what it
found were "serious and pressing non-compliances with FLAs Workplace Code
of Conduct, as well as Chinese labor law."
were broken down into four key areas. In the first, regarding hours, Foxconn
employees were found to be working so many hours, so many days in a row, that
in order for Foxconn to achieve full legal compliance regarding workers' hours,
while also maintaining current levels of output, Foxconn will need to hire
"tens of thousands of extra workers" over the next year.
health and safety, there were particular concerns regarding aluminum dustthe
cause of a fatal explosion at Foxconn's Chengdu facility in 2011and workers,
the FLA found, "felt generally insecure regarding their health and
felt alienated from the factories' safety and health committees, according to a
section on industrial relations and, according to a compensation section,
weren't being properly paid for unscheduled overtime and in some cases weren't
receiving or signing up for social security insurance. Unscheduled overtime is
paid for in 30-minute increments, which means that someone who works 29 minutes
isn't paid for their time at all. According to the FLA, 14 percent of the
workers were unlikely to receive fair pair for unscheduled overtime.
investigation followed a series of in-depth reports from a number of media news
outlets, including The
New York Times
and This American
. The Times
interviews with workers and an account of one of two explosions in iPad
factories that, together, left four people dead and 77 injured. The Times
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days
a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs
swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apples
products, and the companys suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous
waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups
that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers disregard
for workers health.
The This American Life
kick-started several petitions calling for Apple to make changes, was an
excerpt from "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," a one-man show by
performer Mike Daisey, who likewise traveled to China, interviewed workers and
observed a number of, to say the least, wrongs.
it came out that Daisey had exaggerated
and falsified some aspects of his story
, in order to make his message more
impactful. Daisey's tactics arguably left some concerned consumers unsure of
what to believea position the FLA report does much to clarify.
The FLA also
left no questions about what should happen next. In its report, it includes a
"detailed set of necessary remedial measures to protect the health and
safety of workers, reduce worker hours to legal limits while protecting worker
pay, and establish genuine avenues for workers to provide input on company
decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods."