Apple, Foxconn set to improve poor factory worker conditions

Apple and Foxconn have agreed to improve factory conditions following reports of excessive working hours, unfair pay and lax safety.

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Andrew Lanxon
2 min read

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has outlined various problems with working conditions in the Foxconn factory, where Apple's products are made, resulting in a commitment from both parties to improve matters.

The FLA has been assessing working conditions at Foxconn's three biggest manufacturing plants following numerous accusations of poor working conditions. Unsurprisingly, a fistful of issues have been highlighted, largely surrounding excessive working hours, unfair overtime payment structures and poor safety measures.

Foxconn has committed to working fully with the FLA to address these issues and bring conditions up to at least the standard required by local Chinese law.

To address the long working hours staff were undertaking, Foxconn recently hired 20,000 new pairs of hands -- putting its total workforce at around 1.2 million -- which should reduce the need for individual workers to sometimes work week-long shifts.

Overtime will also be measured in 15-minute increments, rather than 30, resolving the previous issue that if a worker was sent home by a manager after 29 minutes, he would not get paid.

Safety issues surrounding aluminium dust and appropriate emergency exits are also being tackled throughout Foxconn's plants, as well as better reporting of accidents. Previously, only accidents that stopped production were reported, rather than those which caused injury. So if you lost your arm, but it didn't clog up the machine, that was fine.

The assessment was carried out following numerous reports of poor conditions, including industrial accidents (such as explosions), and even workers driven to mass suicide over pay disputes. Although Apple is not the only company that uses Foxconn to make its products, it's certainly the largest.

Accusations against the Chinese plants are a dirty black mark against the clean white of Apple, prompting it to invite these searches. At the time of writing, CEO Tim Cook (pictured above), was touring the plants himself, clearly thoroughly enjoying waving at things.

What this means for the other companies that use Foxconn isn't clear. It may well be that Foxconn is not able to produce products with as low a cost, resulting in narrower profit margins for clients. If the same changes are brought into other Chinese factories, it could be that tech firms using these plants need to raise the selling price of their gadgets in order to counterbalance the increased production costs.

We'll have to wait and see what effect the Foxconn report has next year, when the new measures will be fully implemented.

What do you think of Foxconn? Should Apple be ashamed to let its products be made in such conditions or should the blame be shared by all companies involved? Would you be happy to pay a higher premium for your products if you knew they were being built in a safer environment? Let me know in the comments below or over on our amazing Facebook page.