The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has finally returned from Foxconn after investigating allegations of improper labor practices against the manufacturer. Hired on by Apple, the watchdog group drilled over 35,000 anonymous Foxconn employees over the course of 3,000 hours. What the FLA learned was both good and bad.
For starters, there was no sign of underage workers, or "child slaves," despite other reports and rumors. The wages were paid on time too, and surprisingly above the applicable legal rates in China. According to the report, the legal minimum wage in Shenzhen is RMB1500, while the starting wage at Foxconn is RMB1800. After the probation period, wages go up to about RMB2200. Still, 64.3-percent of workers thought that their salary was not sufficient to cover their basic needs.
Now for the negative. The FLA discovered that workers building Apple products were being overworked. More specifically, all three factories exceeded the FLA Code Standard and the requirements of the Chinese labor law at some point in the last 12 months. During peak production periods, the average number of hours worked per week exceeded the FLA Code Standard of 60 hours. Also, there were periods in which some workers did not get one day off in seven days. Thing is, 48-percent thought that their working hours were reasonable, and another 33.8-percent stated that they would like to work more hours and make more money.
The report also stated that it's just not the employees working long hours, it's the interns too. Normally they're not to exceed eight hours per day, five days per week. They're also not supposed to work seven days straight, or receive insurance or other benefits. After all, they're interns -- it's not a paid job, it just pays with experience.
"Our assessors found that interns worked both overtime and night shifts, violations of the regulations governing internships," the report states. "Foxconn provides interns with work-related injury and health insurance, and personal accident and liability insurance is provided by their schools. Under Chinese labor law, interns are not defined as employees and legally, no employment relationship exists between the factory and the interns. This means that the general protections of the labor law do not apply to interns, including the social security benefits that normal workers receive. While regulations applying to interns exist in Guangdong Province and the Ministry of Education has issued policy regarding interns, their employment status remains vague and represents a major risk."
The report also states that the unions were broken, with the majority of the members of union committees drawn from the ranks of management. Foxconn was also found not to be doing enough to protect its workers. Safety and health committees were management dominated and did not engage in workers, and were mostly reactive rather than proactively monitoring conditions.''
The full report can be accessed via Scribd here (opens in new tab).
During Nightline which airs on ABC tonight at 11:35 PM EST, the report will reveal Foxconn's promise to cut hours in compliance with both FLA and Chinese law.