The Fair Labor association has just concluded its month-long report on its investigation of Apple’s labor conditions at the Foxconn factories in China, which has found “significant issues” among working practices at Chinese plants making Apple iPhones and iPads. The US Fair Labor Association (FLA) was asked by Apple to audit its factory after reports of long hours and poor safety.
The watchdog interviewed 35,000 workers at Foxconn factories in Guanlan, Longhua, and Chengdu. The largest of these, the Guanlan factory, employs 73,000 workers. Among the 35,000 people interviewed, there’re only 4 percent of them were under the age of 18 since 16 is the legal working age in China. Down below are some highlights:
All three factories exceeded weekly and monthly overtime limits and used worker-unfriendly overtime calculation. Foxconn agreed to bring working hours down from an average of over 60 hours a week during peak production periods to the legal maximum of 49, including overtime. Unscheduled overtime was calculated in half-hour increments, rounding down, a measurement style which will also change. They will also improve pay so that the reduced hours do not result in financial problems for employees.
Solution: Foxconn has promised to go on a hiring spree, and by July 1, 2013, the supplier will bring working hours in line with the legal limit of 49 hours per week, including overtime. This means a reduction in monthly overtime hours from 80 to 36, and would be a significant improvement given that most of the technology sector is struggling to address excessive overtime.
However: 33% of the workers are willing to work more hour because they feared lower wage, and 64% of them said that their pay was not enough to “cover basic needs“.
The minimum wage in Shenzhen is 1,500RMB per month (about $220), and the starting salary at Foxconn is 1,800RMB ($265). After a probation period the salary is raised to 2200RMB ($325) per month. Average reported salaries at each factory were: Chengdu, 2257RMB, Longhua, 2687RMB, and Guanlan, 2872RMB.
The FLA said they will conduct an assessment of the cost of living in Shenzhen and Chengdu to determine the validity of these claims. Foxconn also agreed to look into low enrollment in social security benefit programs. You may also want to take a look of how the Foxconn’s dorms like in Zhengzhou.
Worker doesn’t feel safe at Foxconn factory. A number of simple safety precautions were not being taken, such as protective equipment, permits, and ensuring a safe exit. With previous accidents like the aluminum dust explosions happened in Chengdu manufacture plant and workers got poisoned by chemical (n-hexane) poisoned when assembling Apple laptops and iPhones.
Solution: Foxconn should require accidents to be reported and recorded every single employee injury systematically and immediately, so that they can track injury trends over time, as well as be audited by outside agencies. And in fact, the factory had already remedied immediately, the FLA noted Foxconn had improved “operating procedures, measurement, and documentation” related to the facilities, such as requiring supervisors and workers to report all accidents resulting in an injury.
Workers were not adequately represented in Foxconn’s unions. Most representative committees tend to be populated by puppets whom bow and scrape to the managers, so they never feel they can say anything.
Solution: Foxconn agreed to improve the election process of worker representatives, as required by local law.
The Ultimate Solution for all problems…
Get more robots! It will definitely resolve most of the issue. Robot won’t get tired, they work faster, more accurate. In fact, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou said the company already has 10,000 robots, and he promised they will gradually increase the number of robots to replace workers to the assembly line by this year. It would be good for Foxconn, but more importantly, it will cure Terry Gou’s headache as he no longer needs to manage one million workers like managing the Taipei Zoo. Hey Foxconn workers, you guys probably should start looking for a new job now! Foxconn will not need most of you guys very soon…
At the beginning of the year, the factory also interviewed by lots of well-known foreign media like ABC News, CNN and also the mostly made up story from This American Life. They all have different views toward the factory. If you haven’t have a chance to look at them, then you may go and check them out in the meantime.