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Foxconn charged with poor working conditions

An exhaustive New York Times report on poor working conditions at gadget manufacturing contractor Foxconn spurs activists, regulators, and electronics companies into action.

After several suicides and suicide attempts at Foxconn's factories, including this one in Shenzhen's Guanlan neighborhood, the company installed netting to discourage employees from jumping off its buildings. Jay Greene/CNET

Working conditions at the plants that make many of our favorite consumer electronics have long been a subject of concern -- even for those manufacturers that contract with them.

Employees at Foxconn factories in China have committed suicide, jumping from buildings. Explosions have injured and even killed workers at plants run by Foxconn and another contact manufacturer, Pegatron. And pay has been often barely enough for Chinese workers to get make ends meet and send a bit home to their families.

Those issues came to a head after an exhaustive New York Times report on working conditions at Foxconn. Activists put increasing pressure on Foxconn and Apple, without a doubt the most high-profile gadget maker to be associated with the story this year since it contracts with Foxconn to make its iPhones, iPads, and iPods. Workers even rioted. The Fair Labor Association in March issued a report citing Foxconn for a number of work standards violations. Both Foxconn and Apple agreed to improve conditions, notably bumping pay for the hundreds of thousands of workers who create the gadgets. But workers' rights groups worry that as the spotlight fades, working conditions will deteriorate again.

Perhaps in part as a result of the backlash surrounding this issue, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said the company is moving some of its Mac production to the U.S.

For more on this story, see Jay Greene's in-depth report from Foxconn's factories in China.

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