Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours - InformationWeek
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Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours

Fair Labor Association association finds significant issues with factories in China operated by Apple supplier Foxconn, which said it would reduce hours for some workers.

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Two weeks after radio show This American Life retracted its report based on monologist Mike Daisey's partially fabricated account of working conditions at Foxconn's factories in China, where Apple products are made, the Fair Labor Association has published what is presumably a more fact-based assessment of the labor issues at three Foxconn facilities in China.

Despite revelations that Daisey invented or exaggerated some of the abuses he described his in stage show, the FLA identified what it characterized as "significant issues" with the working conditions at three Foxconn factories in China.

The report was issued just as Apple CEO Tim Cook was in China meeting with officials in Beijing. Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, in conjunction with Cook's visit, promised to strengthen intellectual property protection, according to Xinhua, a state-controlled publication. Cook is also believed to be meeting with officials from China Unicom and China Telecom about the next iPhone, which is expected toward the end of 2012.

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As a result of its almost month-long investigation, the FLA says it has secured commitments from Foxconn to reduce working hours to legal limits, to provide healthier, safer working conditions, to allow workers to particpate in unions not run by management, and to monitor Foxconn facilities for compliance.

The FLA report found that Foxconn employees worked more than was allowed under either Chinese law (40 hours per week, plus 9 hours of overtime per week) or FLA limits (60 hours per week, with overtime). "During peak production periods, the average number of hours worked per week exceeded the FLA Code Standard of 60 hours," the report states. "Also, there were periods in which some workers did not get one day off in seven days."

According to the FLA's survey, factory employees reported working an average of 56 hours per week and reported working 61 hours on average per week during peak periods. Between a third and a half of the workforce worked up to 70 hours per week during a peak period between November 2011 and January 2012.

One concession that Foxconn has not promised is to raise pay, and that appears to be something the company's workers would appreciate more than better working conditions. The FLA report says, "48% [of workers surveyed] thought that their working hours were reasonable, and another 33.8% stated that they would like to work more hours and make more money." Only 17.7% said they worked too much.

The FLA report noted that in all of the focus group discussions it held with surveyed workers, employees expressed concern that labor limits would lower their income.

However, the FLA's scrutiny will improve the pay of those 14% of workers found to have not been compensated fairly for their overtime work. Foxconn has agreed to pay in 15 minute increments rather than its previous 30 minute model. This will reduce situations where an employee works 29 minutes of overtime and receives no pay or works 59 minutes to be paid for only 30 minutes of overtime.

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Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/1/2012 | 2:08:05 AM
re: Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours
Well, Apple fans, the cost of your shiny new Apple products just went up. That's how you can read this story.

What's surprising to me is that workers under Chinese law can only work 49 hours a week. Having held positions in the past where clocking 70+ hours a week (without overtime) was just part of getting the job done, 49 hours would have felt like I was on vacation.

And perhaps FoxConn hasn't been dealing appropriately with their employees given how they compute compensation for overtime (i.e. working 29 minutes over and not getting paid for it), but as the story says, only 14% of the workforce was affected.

Basically, it's going to come down to whether, in the end, the consumer wants "lower cost" electronics from Apple whether they want the workers that produce those electronics to be treated and compensated "fairly" according to the Fair Labor Association. Only time will tell, but certainly expect to see the cost of Apple products to increase because of this change in how FoxConn does business - either due to increased costs for production or due to a "shortage" of the devices. Of course, this could also give Apple reason to create a "manufactured shortage" in order to drive prices up and claim it's due to demand.

Either way, the consumer/end user should expect to feel the repercussions of these actions.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
3/31/2012 | 9:28:06 AM
re: Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours

To your high horse view they may be slaves but the workers at Foxconn are earning decent wages according to the standard in China and they are not slaves, they can resign at any moment and they are very happy to put on the table to feed their families with the wages they earned. Thousands are queuing up for work at the Foxconn factories just in case you don't know.

As one said they are there to work and not to play.

If you are not that greedy as to demand ess work for more pay, the jobs might have stayed back in the US. The incessant demands by righteous groups to demand legislation for working conditions drove many weary companies to subcontract their manufacturing to the east.

Too bad these low paying jobs according to your standard is not coming back. You had lost your way so be contented with all the whining.

One more thing there is nothing like warm food in the tummy which these workers and their families are enjoying now.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/30/2012 | 11:49:21 PM
re: Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours
@readers: Is Apple doing enough to ensure workers rights are respected abroad?
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
User Rank: Apprentice
3/30/2012 | 8:46:04 PM
re: Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours
Seems as though the workers do not concider this slave labor nor do they like this idea.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/30/2012 | 8:45:45 PM
re: Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours
I'm happy that Apple is looking into the factory conditions, but I wonder if this investigation was scheduled prior to Mr. Daisey's mishap. At first I thought he was hurting the cause but perhaps the attention helped?...
User Rank: Apprentice
3/30/2012 | 8:09:11 PM
re: Apple Supplier Foxconn Will Reduce Working Hours
I guess now that slave labor has been abolished in the USA the USA corporations are attempting to use slave labor practices in other countries!
Perhaps the billions of dollars in profits and million dollar salaries are not enough for the greedy corporate executives.
Sending the USA jobs to foreign countries for unsafe working conditions, excessive hours, and anit-labor laws are making our corporate executives like the the 1800s slave masters.
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