Foxconn Technology Group, the giant contract manufacturer under fire for working conditions at its Chinese factories where Apple's iPhones and iPads are assembled, has raised worker wages by 16 to 25 percent, Reuters reported Friday.
The Taiwan-based company, which has instituted three pay raises for its Chinese workforce since 2010, said in a statement that wages for junior level workers at its Shenzhen plant had been increased to 1,800 yuan a month, or about $285.
Workers who pass a technical examination are eligible for an additional increase of their monthly salaries to 2,200 yuan, or nearly $350, according to Reuters.
"As a top manufacturing company in China, the basic salary of junior workers in all of Foxconn's China factories is already far higher than the minimum wage set by all local governments," the company's statement said, according to the news agency. "We will provide more training opportunities and learning time, and will continuously enhance technology, efficiency and salary, so as to set a good example for the Chinese manufacturing industry."
Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The pay hike comes as the non-profit Fair Labor Association (FLA) this week began its tour of two Foxconn facilities in China at the request of Apple, which will be followed by inspections of the Chinese plants run by seven more components suppliers used by the iPhone maker.
Auret van Heerden, president of the FLA told Reuters earlier this week that he was impressed during his initial visits to Foxconn's facilities, calling them "first-class." But those comments were criticized by labor rights groups and even the FLA's number-two official, who said the initial report on Foxconn that FLA plans to publish in early March would detail more than just "first impressions" about working conditions at the plants.
Van Heerden's comments came just a few days into the FLA's inspection of Apple partners' facilities that kick off with a three-week tour of Foxconn's factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, the latter of which experienced a deadly explosion last year that is believed to have been caused by improper ventilation of aluminum dust.
About 30 FLA staffers will tour the Foxconn facilities and conduct anonymous interviews with a third of the 100,000 workers who work and live at the two plants, seeking information on their living conditions, emotional well-being, and whether Foxconn's agents in the rural areas where many workers are recruited are acting responsibly in the hiring process.
Earlier this week, Apple chief executive Tim Cook assured the public that the company's leaders "care about every worker."
"We believe that every worker has the right to a fair and safe work environment, free of discrimination where they can earn competitive wages and where they can voice their complaints freely," Cook said at Tuesday's Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. "And Apple suppliers must live up to this to do business with Apple."
The iPhone maker has encountered growing criticism of its partners' labor practices in the past several weeks. A recent New York Times exposÃ© detailed press gang-like working conditions and questionable safety practices at Foxconn's factories. Before his death last year, then-CEO Steve Jobs reportedly told President Barack Obama that it would be impossible to manufacture Apple products efficiently elsewhere.
In the wake of such reports, concerned Apple users launched petitions on the websites SumofUs.org and Change.org, calling for Apple to improve worker protections, increase transparency around the monitoring of its suppliers and make an "ethical" iPhone 5. Protestors recently converged on various Apple Stores, including the new one in Grand Central Terminal, to deliver the petitions, which garnered about 250,000 signatures.
Earlier this month, meanwhile, Taiwan-based Foxconn was hacked by a new group of so-called hacktivists and emails from its CEO were exposed.