Apple, Foxconn tackle violation of workers’ conditions

2012-03-30 11:12

San Francisco – Apple and its main contract manufacture Foxconn agreed to tackle violations of conditions among the 1.2 million workers assembling iPhones and iPads in a landmark decision that could change the way Western companies do business in China.

Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, whose subsidiary Hon Hai Precision Industry assembles Apple devices in factories in China, will hire tens of thousands of new workers, eliminate illegal overtime, improve safety protocols and upgrade workers’ housing and other amenities.

The decision comes as a response to one of the largest investigations ever conducted of a US company’s operations outside of America. Apple had agreed to the probe by the independent Fair Labour Association (FLA) to stem criticism that its products were built on the backs of mistreated Chinese workers.

The association, in disclosing its findings from a survey of three Foxconn plants and more than 35 000 workers, said it had unearthed multiple violations of labour law, including extreme hours and unpaid overtime.

FLA President Auret van Heerden expects the agreement between Apple, which is the world’s most valuable listed company, and Foxconn, which supplies 50% of the world’s consumer electronics, to have ­far-reaching effects.

“Apple and Foxconn are obviously the two biggest players in this sector,” he said in an interview. “Since they’re teaming up to drive this change, I really do think they set the bar for the rest of the sector.”

Van Heerden expressed the sentiment that the move by the two industry leaders could force competitors to do the same.

Other brands that have contracts with the Taiwanese company that could be affected include Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon.com, Motorola, Nokia and Sony.

The FLA is set to investigate more Apple contractors over the following months.

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