Fair Labor Association reports Foxconn isn't complying Chinese labor laws

The Fair Labor Association has just wrapped up its independent audit, commissioned by Apple, of the working conditions at Foxconn. After interviewing over 35,000 workers from three different factories, the FLA said their "nearly month-long investigation revealed serious and pressing noncompliances with FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct, as well as Chinese labor law." Sounds serious, right? Well, to be fair, the above graph represents the degree to which the Foxconn factories are meeting FLA and standards of national law, and as the FLA had reported earlier, Apple's factories aren't doing particularly bad. The FLA established four major areas where Foxconn needed to improve: working hours, health and safety, industrial relations and worker integration, and compensation and social security insurance.

First, average weekly work hours are beyond the legal limits across all factories, and some employees worked 7 days straight, despite the legal requirement to have at least a single 24-hour break. Foxconn promised to be compliant as of July 1... 2013. Apparently they need to hire more people in order to make up for the hours, which lines up with previous reports of a Foxconn hiring spree.

Secondly, workers felt insecure, especially after that explosion caused by aluminum dust last spring. While Foxconn made safety procedure changes following the incident, they've promised to keep a sharper eye on safety infractions; instead of just keeping records of incidents when work has stopped, they're now going to keep tabs on every employee injury.

Thirdly, Foxconn laborers have no say in who is appointed to representative committees, which means they're more or less puppets to the agendas of managers.  To fix that, Foxconn is going to introduce an election process, and to improve their sense of empowerment, Foxconn is going to give a copy of their Collective Bargaining Agreement, and offer union information during orientation of new employees.

Lastly, Foxconn has been illegally putting interns to work for shifts longer than 8 hours, and no more than 5 days a week. As it turns out, Foxconn has had them working night shifts and overtime. Also, 14% of workers are only paid unscheduled overtime by the half hour, so they don't get anything for working 29 minutes. Foxconn promises that they'll knock that down to 15 minutes. Insurance is also an issue. 99% of the workers in two factories are migrants, but since insurance is doled out on a provincial basis, they can't collect if they ever go hom. Foxconn is going to look into private alternatives.

While there's some stuff here that needs to be fixed, none of it sounds insurmountable. Even though it sounds like they're working hard, only 17.7% of respondents said they worked too much, while 33.8% actually wanted to work more. As for the age of workers, the FLA found the average to be around 23, and that the percentage of those aged 16 to 18 to be between 3.6% and 5.5%, depending on the factory.

In any case, it's really good to see a proper report like this, even compared to Nightline's piece. Getting into specific numbers and specific processes gives us a much clearer idea of how Apple is churning out millions of iPhones and iPads. Hopefully this level of scrutiny sets a new bar for other electronics manufacturers in China.  It's good that Apple is being proactive in getting the FLA involved, but it's hard to tell if they're getting a little too involved... Would this report have been a little more harsh if Apple wasn't paying them dues to be in the association?

The FLA will be following up on this investigation to make sure the changes are implemented. You can find the FLA's full report, complete with appendices over here. It's definitely worth a gander.

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

  • Imagine if Apple moved production to the U.S. and created 120 thousand jobs.... of course our phones would cost 10 times what they do now. iPhone 5 = $3000 because they would have to cover paying employee minimum wage and then the Unions would get involved too.....
  • You nailed it right there. this is why jobs are overseas.
  • To me it just sounded like most of what we hear about the appaling conditions at Foxconn is true, and some Apple fans are still in denial and trying to justify everything.
    Foxconn is not Apple, no need to defend it all the time.
  • Wait Foxconn is not following Chinese labor laws, has unsafe working conditions, doesn't treat their employees fairly, doesn't actually pay them a realistic wage and could care less about their health and standard of living.
    I'm shocked, shocked I say.
    Seriously Apple can well afford to cut into their profits to provide a better working condition at their partner factories. I say Apple because we all know the profit margins Foxconn receives are so miniscule and tight its not funny. Apple is profiting very nicely and if they didn't have that cheap labor force their profits would never have reached the level they are today.
    Share holders need to realize that if the Foxconn factories stopped production for say a week just how much money would they lose.
    Also Apple could very well build their plants in the US and other countries but given the simple fact that China holds the vast majority of rare earth minerals and exporting them has the US and EU filing legitimate complaints with the WTO its far more lucrative to manufacturer in a country where the materials are more easily obtained than not.
    So each time you buy a new iPhone just remember that the poor Foxconn workers can ill afford to buy one given their substandard wages.
  • The report is much more serious than is being pictured here, 43% of workers have experienced or witnessed an accident, 64% of employees say that compensation does not meet their basic needs, workers at all three factories exceeeded 60 hours a week working seven days a week.
    Foxconn has only been reporting accidents that resulted in a production stoppage, and their union is dominated by management representatives and does not provide true worker representation.
    All in all a very bad report, even worse after all the PR ABC/Apple have been putting into this.
  • i'm sure someone will say how it's not that bad and try to excuse it by saying but it happens other places as if a wrong somewhere else justifies your wrong. Either way they should be abiding by the laws and honestly apple should be insisting on better then the law demands.
  • The worst part of the report is that Foxconn said it would take until July 2013, that's over a year from now, to bring excessive mandatory overtime to LEGAL limits! A year! Makes one wonder...