Free Labor Association Finds Issues in Foxconn Plants, Gets Commitments For Changes

In January, Apple joined the Free Labor Association, agreeing to uphold the group’s workplace standards. A month later, the FLA launched an independent investigation into working conditions at Foxconn plants in China, where many Apple products are manufactured.

Now, the investigation is complete, and the FLA found that indeed, there were plenty of problems with working conditions at the three factories it visited in Guanlan, Longhua, and Chengdu. The group also secured pledges from Apple and Foxconn that the two companies will fix the issues and said in a press release that it will continue to monitor conditions and submit public reports about the goings-on at the factories.

It doesn’t sound like the FLA has sharp teeth, but by releasing reports to the public, it does put pressure on Apple and Foxconn, which isn’t entirely ineffective.

Image credit: techcrunch

The FLA surveyed over 35,000 workers at the plants and found that:
-All three factories exceeded the legal limits of work hours and overtime
-14% of workers did not receive fair compensation for overtime hours worked
-64% of workers’ compensation did not cover their financial needs
-43% of workers have witnessed or been part of an accident
-Slipshod accident reporting
-Health and safety issues including blocked exits, improper protective equipment and lack of permits
-Inadequate union representation
-Low enrollment in social security benefit programs
-Poor treatment of interns
The press release outlining all of these issues and the ways in which Foxconn has and will address them is rather long, so we won’t post it here, but definitely give it a read. If you’re up for the full report, it’s here.

As to whether or not the FLA’s investigation was a glorified guided tour presided over by Foxconn, President and CEO of the Fair Labor Association Auret van Heerden stated, "Joining the Fair Labor Association is voluntary. But once a company joins, FLA sets the rules of investigations and has full access to any supplier, owns the information collected and publishes its findings and recommendations for remedial action.” The group also poured about 3,000 staff hours into the investigation.

Image credit: MSN

It’s hard to say what will come of the FLA’s oversight, but we hope that the end result is greatly improved, first-world working conditions for the throngs of Chinese workers who make our electronics.