Apple supplier makes progress on working conditions
Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics supplier of IT giant Apple, is ahead of schedule in addressing health and safety conditions at three of its factories in China, but still has a huge challenge to reduce working hours for its staff.
This is the conclusion of a progress report by the Fair Labor Association, which, earlier this year, set the company the task of taking remedial action to improve workplace conditions following a spate of suicides in 2010 at the Foxconn plant in Shenzen, as well as reports of staff suffering ill health from exposure to chemicals at a factory in Suzhou.
Remediation highlights include: enforcement of worker breaks; changing the design of workers’ equipment to guard against repetitive stress injuries; updating maintenance policies to ensure equipment is working properly; and testing equipment such as eyewashes and sprinkler systems. Foxconn has also used consultants to provide health and safety training for all employees.
During the FLA investigation in March, all three factories – at Guanlan, Longhua and Chengdu – were found to have exceeded the Association’s standard of 60 hours per week (plus regular overtime) and Chinese legal limits of 40 hours per week. So far, Foxconn has reduced hours to the FLA standard, and aims to reach full compliance with the Chinese laws, while protecting worker pay, by the July 2013 deadline set by the FLA. The company has also improved its internship programme to ensure recruits do not work overtime.
Commenting on the findings, FLA president and CEO, Auret van Heerden, said: “We are satisfied that Apple has done its due diligence thus far to hold Foxconn accountable for complying with the action plan, including the commitment to reform its internship programme. When we finished our initial investigation in March, Foxconn promised to address concerns with its internship program by ensuring that student interns do not work overtime, their work has a more direct connection to their field of study, and they understand that they are free to terminate the internship if and when they wish.”
But he warned: “The next phase of improvements will be challenging for Foxconn because they involve major changes in the working environment that will inevitably cause uncertainty and anxiety among workers. As Foxconn prepares to comply with the Chinese legal limits on work hours, consultation with workers on the changes and implications will be critical to a successful transition.”
The FLA’s progress report shows that Foxconn has completed all 195 immediate remedial tasks that were due by the end of May, and has completed an additional 89 action items that were due between June 2012 and July next year. Overall, 79 per cent of the 360 remedial action points have been completed and verified.
Set up in January this year, the FLA is a coalition of universities, non-governmental organisations and businesses committed to improving the well-being, safety, fair treatment, and respect of workers.
The report can be downloaded at http://www.fairlabor.org/report/foxconn-remediation-verification
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