Menu
The Tech News Blog

Foxconn Probe Uncovers Excessive Overtime, Unsafe Conditions

March 29, 2012

A month-long investigation of Foxconn plants that produce Apple products like the iPhone and iPad uncovered problems with excessive overtime, compensation, unsafe working conditions, and communication.

Auret van Heerden, president and CEO of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which conducted the probe, said the group "gave Apple's largest supplier the equivalent of a full-body scan" - interviewing 35,500 workers.

That "body scan" - which covered three Foxconn factories at Guanlan, Longhua, and Chengdu over 3,000 hours - uncovered various problems with compensation, long hours, and workplace hazards.

In the last year, all three factories exceeded the FLA code standard of 60 work hours per week, as well as the Chinese limit of 40 hours per week plus 36 hours of overtime per month. Foxconn workers regularly exceeded 60 hours per week, especially during peak production times, when some workers were on duty for more than seven days in a row without the required 24 hours off.

According to the FLA, Foxconn has promised to bring its factories into compliance with standard FLA and Chinese work hours by July 2013. That includes a max of 49 hours per week, including overtime, reducing monthly overtime from 80 to 36 hours.

Given that reduced overtime will result in less pay, the FLA said Foxconn will develop "compensation packages" to make up for it. The company will also hire more workers and build more housing and cafeterias to keep up with production needs.

Overtime
Getting paid for time worked has apparently been a problem, according to the study. Approximately 14 percent of workers have not received the overtime they earned, thanks to an overtime system built on 30-minute increments.

"This means, for example, that 29 minutes of overtime work results in no pay and 58 minutes results in only one unit of overtime pay," the FLA said. "Foxconn committed to pay workers fairly for all overtime as well as work-related meetings outside of regular working hours."

Foxconn will retroactively pay workers who did not receive the correct overtime pay; Foxconn and Apple are conducting an audit to determine how much money that might be.

Money is a main concern, with 64 percent of workers saying they can't make ends meet with their Foxconn earnings. The FLA said in response that it will conduct a cost of living assessment for Shenzhen and Chengdu to see if that's the case.

In a recent update to its Supplier Responsibility website, Apple said that in January, supplier-collected data about 500,000 employees showed that 84 percent complied with its maximum 60-hour work week rule. Last month, that compliance rate increased to 89 percent, and the average employee worked 48 hours per week, Apple said.

Unsafe Working Conditions
The FLA said that until now, Foxconn only reported injuries that resulted in a production stoppage. More than 43 percent of workers interviewed by the association, however, said they have witnessed an accident at the factories - from injured hands to vehicle crashes. As a result, Foxconn will now report all accidents that result in an injury.

The FLA also identified safety issues like blocked exits, a lack of or faulty protective gear, and missing permits.

About a year after the Chengdu explosion, however, "Foxconn had improved operating procedures, measurement, and documentation to reduce risks related to aluminum dust where Apple products are made," the FLA said.

Bureaucracy
Workers who have problems with conditions at Foxconn often have little recourse. The FLA found that "the union at Foxconn is dominated by management representatives and does not provide true worker representation."

Foxconn has reportedly agreed to allow elections of worker representatives without management interference.

The company will also look into why enrollment in its social security benefit programs is so low, and to ensure that the aforementioned protections are extended to interns as well.

"If implemented, these commitments will significantly improve the lives of more than 1.2 million Foxconn employees and set a new standard for Chinese factories," van Heerden said in a statement.

Apple asked the FLA to conduct audits of Apple's final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn last month. The issue made headlines after a series of articles in the New York Times questioned whether Apple products are manufactured under safe and humane conditions. Concerns about Foxconn, however, have been going on much longer, with reports about worker suicides making news since at least 2010.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said at a recent Goldman Sachs event that Apple cares about every worker. Cook is actually in China at the moment, where he toured a Foxconn factory.



Tagged as: , ,

Cell Phones Televisions Digital Cameras Computers Shop All Electronics