Apple's China contractor comes under fire in labor group's audit

(KGO)
March 29, 2012 6:06:03 PM PDT
Foxconn, the contractor that makes the Apple iPhone and iPad in China, worked employees in excess of 60 hours a week and more than seven days in a row without time off. The legal limit on work hours in China is 49 hours, including overtime.

Those details and more were released Thursday afternoon by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) based in Washington, D.C., of which Apple is a member. Apple agreed earlier this year to participate in an audit of its factories to monitor working conditions, pay, and safety issues. FLA conducted surveys at three Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China during February and March.

The extensive audit supports what critics have been saying for years. Apple's main contractor in China is accused of ignoring safety while forcing its workers to do excessive overtime on the assembly line.

Other issued raised in the audit include:

  • Employees did not get paid for actual overtime worked. The audit notes that overtime was paid in 30-minute increments, so a worker who did 29 minutes of overtime did not receive overtime pay. If that work put in 58 minutes of overtime, only 30 minutes of overtime was paid.
  • 43 percent of workers experienced or witnessed an accident that resulted in a work stoppage. Accidents ranged from hand injuries to vehicle accidents.
  • A number of safety violations were reported, including blocked exits and missing or faulty protective equipment.

We are asking Apple for its reaction to the report. Apple's CEO Tim Cook is in China this week. He visited one of Foxconn's newest plants yesterday.

A D.C.-based activist group, SumOfUs, is not hopeful Apple will make meaningful changes as a result of the audit. Its founder and president, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told ABC7 News that Tim Cook was in charge of Apple's supply chain before becoming CEO last year when co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down because of illness. She says he should have been aware of working conditions at its contractors in China. "We very much hope that things will result in change, but I can't say I'm holding my breath," Stinebrickner-Kauufman said.

The audit may have a wider impact on all of China's factories. "They will be made as an example to all of China's manufacturing facilities that this kind of activity cannot continue in any factory, not just Foxconn," technology analyst Tim Bajarin said. The audit and its remedies are also expected to have an impact on what consumers pay in the future for iPhones and iPads. The Fair Labor Association says social responsibility has a cost and Apple customers will have to share that cost.

Apple has not responded to ABC7's requests for reaction to the audit.


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