Apple, Foxconn to share cost of improving factory conditions

The iPhone maker and its supplier will each kick in money in an effort to alleviate conditions for Foxconn's Chinese employees.

Foxconn employees working on Apple products.
Foxconn employees working on Apple products. Apple

Apple is teaming up with Foxconn to invest money to try to improve conditions for the supplier's factory workers.

Plagued by reports of poor working conditions at plants in China, Foxconn chief Terry Gou confirmed the news today but didn't give a dollar amount or indicate how much each company would spend, according to Reuters.

"We've discovered that this (improving factory conditions) is not a cost. It is a competitive strength," Gou told reporters earlier today. "I believe Apple sees this as a competitive strength along with us, and so we will split the initial costs."

CNET contacted Apple for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.

Foxconn and, by extension Apple, have been under pressure to address factory conditions following a string of worker suicides at the supplier's Shenzhen plant almost two years ago. Other tech companies, such as HP and Dell, use Foxconn to assemble their products, but Apple has found itself at the forefront of the fight.

To delve deeper into the problem, Apple has enlisted the aid of the Fair Labor Association . The FLA recently investigated three Foxconn factories in China and discovered severe violations, including excessive overtime as well as various health and safety risks.

In response, Foxconn pledged to bring its factories into full FLA compliance over pay and working hours by July of 2013. The supplier has said it will raise salaries and cut overtime, a promise that ironically has triggered concerns among factory workers who believe that less overtime will mean less money.

Questions have also arisen as to whether Foxconn will follow through on its promises.

Many of the violations uncovered by the FLA are the same ones that Apple's own auditor found six years ago, according to Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, a labor-rights group.

So far, Foxconn's only penalty has been a promise to do better , Nova said.

Hopefully the new cash investment pledged by both Foxconn and Apple is a sign that the two are more serious this time around.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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