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Fair labor report shows progress at Apple's Foxconn factories

The Chinese factories complete majority of labor practice improvements, but "challenging" times are ahead, according to the Fair Labor Association.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read
Foxconn employees working on Apple products.
Foxconn employees working on Apple products. Apple

Apple supplier Foxconn has completed the majority of the changes aimed at fixing labor law violations, but its biggest obstacle may be ahead of it -- communicating with its employees that it will continue cutting weekly work hours down from more than 60 to 40 to comply with China's regulations, according to the Fair Labor Association.

The association published a report today reviewing Foxconn's completed changes and its next steps. The FLA found that Foxconn made all of the 195 change due in April and May. These are mainly physical changes that improve worker health and safety and include the enforcement of ergonomic breaks, changing the design of workers' equipment to guard against repetitive stress injuries, updating maintenance policies to ensure equipment is working properly, and testing emergency protective equipment like eye-washes and sprinklers.

This brings Foxconn's total to 280 completed actions, with 76 more due by July 2013.

The FLA began what it calls the "most comprehensive and detailed assessments in the history of manufacturing," early this year in attempt to bring the manufacturing company in compliance with labor laws. In addition to health and safety violations, the investigation found that some workers weren't being paid enough. The organization hopes these practices will expand to other manufacturers as well.

The FLA said Foxconn is already on its way to reaching those goals by reducing work hours to under 60 per week, including overtime, but more work will need to be done to reach the legal limit of 40 hours per week plus and average overtime of 9 hours. The factories will need to figure out how to reduce hours without reducing its workers' pay, according to the FLA.

"The next phase of improvements will be challenging for Foxconn because they involve major changes in the working environment that will inevitably cause uncertainty and anxiety among workers," Auret van Heerden, president and CEO of the Fair Labor Association, said in a statement. "As Foxconn prepares to comply with the Chinese legal limits on work hours, consultation with workers on the changes and implications will be critical to a successful transition."

Apple representatives were not immediately available for comment, but Foxconn released a statement on the report, emphasizing Foxconn's commitment to the labor improvements.

"We want to do the right thing for our 1 million employees, but we also want to serve as a model for other companies," Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo said.