+60 hour weeks, shocking safety, non payment for overtime – welcome to Apple’s China plants.
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Apple has pledged to remedy the litany of abuses uncovered by a Fair Labour Association report into its three China factories published this week, which found conditions were anything but fair.
The investigation into conditions at Foxconn plants – Apple’s biggest supplier in China – told of labour violations and “serious non compliances” with workplace codes – including overworking, non payment for overtime and workers living in fear of lethal aluminum dust.
In total, the report observed “at least 50 issues” including “serious and pressing noncompliances with [FLA] Workplace Code of Conduct, as well as Chinese labor law,” at three Apple plants at Guanlan, Longhua, and Chengdu, showing the production of iPhone’s and iPads is anything but fun.
The month long investigation, which also surveyed 35,000 Foxconn workers, revealed all three factories had workers on +60 hr weeks at some point in the last year, while 50% of workers said they worked 11 or more consecutive days.
The average number of hours worked per week at Foxconn’s plants exceeded both the FLA standard (60 hrs incl overtime) and Chinese legal limits (40 hrs) – at all three locations, which employs 1.2 million in total in China.
“There were periods during which some employees worked more than seven days in a row without the required minimum 24-hour break.” the report also stated.
Foxconn has agreed to achieve “full legal compliance” regarding work hours by July 1, 2013, but pledged to protect workers’ pay – meaning it will have to hire “tens of thousands “of extra workers, say FLA.
However, employees have since expressed concern their wages will be cut.
“We have just been told that we can only work a maximum of 36 hours a month of overtime. I tell you, a lot of us are unhappy with this,” one Foxconn employee told Reuters.
Underpayment is also common and while Foxconn wages are above the Chinese average (and legal minimum), 14% of the workers “may not” receive fair compensation for “unscheduled” overtime, the report found.
“Unscheduled overtime” was only paid in 30-minute increments, meaning 29 minutes of overtime work results in no pay and 59 minutes only counted as one unit of payment.
Foxxconn have pledged to workers will be paid fairly for all overtime and work-related meetings that occur outside regular working hours.
So will this push the price of Apple products even higher? Unlikely, as Apple is one of the filthiest rich companies globally with almost $100 billion in spare cash – can probabaly afford a slight increase in cost of production for devices it charges consumers top dollar for.
Workers are also in fear of and “generally insecure” regarding their health and safety the 13 page report also showed – with the issue of aluminum dust a major concern for many – the cause of a widely reported explosion at an iPad facility in Chengdu facility last year that resulted in the death of two employees.
Foxconn’s past health and safety violations, including blocked exits, lack of or faulty personal protective equipment, and missing permits have recently been remedied, the report also showed.
But it seems Foxxconn’s method of reporting workplace incidents were also questionable with only those that caused work to stop recorded as “accidents.
“Foxconn has agreed to change the system. But to make matters worse, Foxconn workers have had no voice to air concerns over appaling factory slave labour type conditions, which by the way, include work dorms where some workers sleep during the working week.
Investigators found that workers were largely alienated, in fact or in perception, from factories’ safety and health committees and had little confidence in the management of health and safety issues.
As an affiliate of the Fair Labor Association, Apple has committed to ensuring that the FLA code standards are upheld in its supply chain
This investigation was the first of an ongoing series of FLA investigations and assessments into Apple’s supply chain and Cupertino now has two years to get its shop in order.
“The eyes of the world are on [Foxconn] and there’s just no way they can’t deliver,” said FLA President Auret van Heerden, reports Bloomberg.
“It’s a real showstopper.”
“No one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple,” Cook told a Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in February.
“We are constantly auditing facilities, going deep into the supply chain, looking for problems, finding problems, and fixing problems.