Foxconn audit fails to satisfy human rights campaigners

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Working conditions at Apple's notorious Foxconn supplier have been greatly improved, says the Fair Labor Association - although some disagree.

Apple brought in the FLA at the beginning of this year in response to persistent criticism for the working conditions at its far Eastern suppliers. And, according to its progress report, Foxconn's up to date in its remedial efforts at its Shenzhen and Chengdu plants.

"The most significant commitments made by Foxconn following FLA’s original investigation were related to union elections and worker representation, and compliance with Chinese labor law regarding hours of work," it reads.

"Deadlines for remediation of these items continue through July 2013; however, Foxconn has taken initial steps toward fulfilling these commitments. The company has reduced hours to 60 per week (including overtime) with the goal of reaching full compliance with the Chinese legal limit of 40 hours per week plus an average of 9 hours of overtime per week while protecting worker pay."

The favorable report will surprise few. The FLA, created by some of the biggest names in the garment industry and still largely funded by them, isn't always as rigorous as it might be. 

Back in the 90s, it approved one of Nike's suppliers, despite the fact that staff there had accumulated 600,000 hours of unpaid overtime between them.

The Foxconn investigation is one of the first its ever carried out for an electronics company. And, when FLA president Auret van Heerden visited some of Foxconn's facilities in advance of the inspection earlier this year, he described them as 'first class'.

And, indeed, human rights organization China Labor Watch isn't particularly impressed with the latest report.

"Although the working hours at Foxconn have been reduced to less than 60 hours per week, the intensity of the hourly work has been increased," it says.

"According to our follow-up investigation, the workers have to complete the workload of 66 hours before within 60 hours now per week. As a result, the workers get lower wages but have to work much harder, and they are not satisfied with the current situation."