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Apple making progress on work hours, but 'can do better'

Company says number of employees in supplier factories who work "excessive" hours is dropping.

A worker at an Apple facility in Chengdu, China.
A worker at an Apple facility in Chengdu, China. Apple

Apple says it's making progress on working conditions in supplier facilities.

The company recently issued its monthly report on "excessive work hours" in supplier factories around the world, saying that 89 percent of workers were in compliance with a 60-hour work week. In January, 84 percent of the employed workers were found to be in compliance.

According to Apple, the typical factory worker was on the job for 48 hours each week in February.

"That's a substantial improvement over previous results, but we can do better," the company wrote on its Supplier Responsibility page. "We will continue to share our progress by reporting this data on a monthly basis."

Apple has been under fire as of late over working conditions in supplier factories overseas. The company responded to the outcry by bringing in Fair Labor Association inspectors to investigate how workers are treated in Foxconn plants. After that investigation is completed, the independent inspectors will be moving on to other Apple supplier sites.

Apple has been making it abundantly clear as of late how important working conditions are to the company. In an e-mail to employees earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company cares "about every worker in our worldwide supply chain," adding that any claim to the contrary is "patently false and offensive to us."

John Gruber, who writes Apple enthusiast blog Daring Fireball, was first to report on the work-hours report and points out that February's reduced work hours may have occurred as new iPad production was "ramping up." What's not clear, though, is how many hours the remaining 11 percent of employees worked, the role they may have played in iPad production, and how the reported work hours are verified.

Apple conducts weekly tracking on 110 factories "where excessive work-hour violations were commonplace." According to the company, reducing "excessive overtime" is the Supplier Responsibility program's chief responsibility in 2012.