Foxconn Agrees to Improve Working Conditions at Factories

Responding to a critical investigation of its factories, the manufacturing giant Foxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others, The New York Times reports. The move could improve working conditions across China.

The shift comes after a far-ranging inspection by the Fair Labor Association, a monitoring group, found widespread problems — including at least 43 violations of Chinese laws and regulations, and numerous instances where Foxconn defied industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 11 days in a row. The group released a report Thursday with its findings.

The monitoring group, which surveyed more than 35,000 Foxconn employees and inspected three large facilities where Apple products are manufactured, also found that 43 percent of workers had experienced or witnessed accidents, and almost two-thirds said their compensation “does not meet their basic needs.” Many said that the unions available to them do “not provide true worker representation.”

“There’s this lingering sense among workers that they’re in a dangerous place,” Auret van Heerden, president and chief executive of the Fair Labor Association, said in an interview. But Foxconn has “reached a tipping point,” he added. “They have publicly promised to make changes in a manner that they will have to deliver on it.”

Apple, which recently joined the Fair Labor Association, had asked the group to investigate plants manufacturing iPhones, iPads and other devices. In past months, a growing outcry over conditions at such factories has drawn protests and petitions, and several labor rights organizations started independently scrutinizing Apple’s suppliers. Earlier this week a collection of advocacy groups sent Apple an open letter calling on the company to “ensure decent working conditions at all its suppliers.”

Since January, Apple has released the names of 156 of its suppliers — which it had previously declined to identify — and has started posting regular monitoring reports on the number of hours worked by factory employees. Apple, which has audited its suppliers since 2006, said in a statement Thursday that it shares “the F.L.A.’s goal of improving lives and raising the bar for manufacturing companies everywhere.”