Apple Supplier Foxconn Making Progress on Labor Fairness: FLA

The FLA's second round of verification assessments found continued improvement in compliance with labor laws at Apple's biggest supplier.

Ongoing efforts by Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn, to implement a 15-month action plan developed following Fair Labor Organization’s (FLA) original investigation of three facilities in early 2012 appear to be resulting in positive changes for employees there, however, more work remains to be done, an FLA update report revealed.

Foxconn has completed all planned actions slated for implementation by Dec. 31, 2012. However, six items related to hours of work, slated for July 2013, remain to be completed. Assessors also found that there had been notable increases in the participation of workers in union committees, and a corresponding decline in management participation in such committees since the first verification visit in June 2012.

"The increase of worker representatives in Foxconn’s union committees is encouraging," Auret van Heerden, president and CEO of the FLA, said in a statement. "When FLA first visited Foxconn last year, the union committees–like those at most other factories in China – were dominated by management. By this time next year, we expect worker participation to be even higher."

The report noted the percentage of worker representatives in the main union committees increased to 38.7 percent in Guanlan from 0 percent in June 2012, to 40.9 percent in Longhua from 10.3 percent, and to 29.5 percent in Chengdu from 7.1 percent. The next elections are scheduled for January 2015 in Guanlan and Longhua, and for March 2014 in Chengdu, the FLA report said.

The independent assessors engaged by FLA returned to the three Foxconn facilities from Jan. 15 to Jan. 25, to conduct visual observations, review records and documentation, and interview workers and management. The assessors also found that Foxconn management had made significant progress in reducing hours of work to 60 hours per week including overtime, bringing Foxconn into compliance with the FLA code standard. The report said the company continues to work toward the goal of reaching full compliance with the Chinese legal limit by July 2013.

However, several new issues were also identified, which represented risks of noncompliance if not promptly addressed. These included items such as insufficient lighting at some workstations and high noise level in some areas. The FLA has forwarded the items and recommendations to Apple, which is developing a plan and addressing these items in the ongoing implementation of its obligations as an FLA-affiliated participating company, the report said.

In August 2012, the world's largest maker of electronic components, which is based in Taiwan, came under renewed scrutiny as it admitted to employing interns as young as 14 years old to piece together the iPhone 5. The FLA assessors found that no interns had been engaged at the Chengdu facility since September 2011, or at Longhua since June 2012. The internship program at Guanlan–which had employed 1,392 interns–concluded on Jan. 5. All of the planned actions related to the internship program during this time period had been completed.