Foxconn Finally Agrees To Improve Conditions For Apple Plant Workers By Cutting Hours

After a spate of controversial reports on the working conditions at Foxconn’s Chinese factories where many of Apple’s products are made, the two companies have announced a cut in hours that will benefit workers. An auditing company hired by Apple and Foxconn has been monitoring the process, and says things are on the way toward improving.

According to the Fair Labor Association, a nonprofit global monitoring group , Chinese labor laws required the companies  to cut down on the amount of hours employees work at Foxconn plants by almost a third by 2013, reports the New York Times. Overtime will be cut to less than nine hours per week, way down from the current 20 hours.

That could prove tricky, however, as many workers are attracted to plants by the amount of overtime they’re able to work in order to make more money.

“It is a challenge,” said Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn’s chief executive. “When we reduce overtime, it means we need to hire more people and implement more automation, more investment on robotic engineering. More workers also mean more dormitories and recreational facilities. It takes time.”

An Apple spokesman chimed in with a statement as well, saying the company has been active in improving working conditions for workers making their iPads and iPhones.

“We’ve been making steady progress in reducing excessive work hours throughout our supply chain. We track working hours weekly for over 700,000 workers and currently have 97 percent compliance with the 60-hour maximum workweek specified in our code of conduct.”

Other changes the two companies have pledged to make in addition to the whittled down working hours include better safety, the hiring of new workers and significant  improvements to the dormitories where employees live.

The Fair Labor Association’s report confirmed that the steps to improve conditions have taken place, and that Apple is making an effort to hold Foxconn accountable. However another group with an eye on the situation, China Labor Watch, said it’s still not enough and that the changes could actually end up harming workers.

“Workers have to complete the workload of 66 hours before within 60 hours now per week. As a result, the workers get lower wages but have to work much harder.”

What isn’t being said here seems to be that because all of these improvements could cost Apple and Foxconn money — for example, increasing pay to convince workers not to flee to to other factories to get overtime back — that cost could be passed on to the consumer in the form of more expensive products. It remains to be seen, however. Whether or not paying a bit more for your iPad is worth it to ensure workers have better conditions, well, that’s up to you.

Foxconn and Apple Improve Conditions [New York Times]

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  1. Akuma Matata says:

    Apple will pass the cost along if they think the market can bear it.

    • failfailfail says:

      Apple already charges the price they think the market can bear. They don’t compete on price, and they don’t price their products based on cost.

      On the other hand Foxconn does manufacture products for a lot of other companies who DO compete on price and price products based on cost. You might pay more for their products. Probably not though, labor costs aren’t that significant on these products.

  2. Invader Zim says:

    It only took a few years…..right on.

  3. jojo319 says:

    I can’t wait for the comments complaining about Apple raising their prices in the future. Don’t expect Apple to just “absorb” these costs. I don’t mind paying extra for better conditions, but you raise the price of an iPhone $5 and people will explode. Shit, they already think a $5.00 app is overpriced.

    • JaundiceJames says:

      Apple just became the highest-valued company in the world; Apple SHOULD absorb these costs. They weren’t using cheap labor to pass along savings to the consumer; they were using it to pad their profits and make their stockholders happy.

      • luxosaucer13 says:

        Bingo. Apple makes their products in the same places as does many others. Tell me again why I should pay 2-3x more for something with a fruit logo on it than a competitor’s product (often with better specs).

        Go ahead…….I’ll wait.

        Oh, and before any Apple fanboys chime in, I’ve used both Mac OS X and Windows. Windows 7, IMHO is every bit as good of a product as Mac OS.

    • Oh_No84 says:

      They know people will pay anything for the Apple logo.
      Apples products are half the hardware for twice the price when it comes to specs. People dont buy apple if they want the best or the fasted. They buy apple for the logo and street cred.
      Apple is a fashion/marketing company, not a computer company.

  4. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Everyone knows Apple gets a pass. They are not a “corporation” in the normal sense. They have…you know…philosophy…or mystique or something.

  5. Budala says:

    So now the workers have time to pick up a part-time job at another place or just work a few extra hours at another Foxconn plant.

    • Bob A Dobalina says:

      Did you read the part about dormitories and recreational facilities? the workers live at the plant

  6. Invader Zim says:

    This is bad. “Workers have to complete the workload of 66 hours before within 60 hours now per week. As a result, the workers get lower wages but have to work much harder.”

  7. shepd says:

    The free market pressuring a company to try to do the right thing and that company responding to the pressure!

    NEVER! Where’s the regulation! It’s inhumane to expect 60 hours a week from these people!

    • Blueskylaw says:

      When you pay people next to nothing and make them work and live under brutal conditions, even 20 hours a week overtime per person hardly puts a dent in the balance sheet of Foxconn or Apple.

      • Oh_No84 says:

        You are assuming they have a concept of overtime and they pay more than straight time.
        I would think in China there is no such thing as overtime and you make the same per every hour you work.

        • shepd says:

          Then you’re wrong:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Contract_Law_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China

          “The new law also requires employers to contribute to employees’ social security accounts and sets wage standards for employees on probation and working overtime.”

          http://www.lehmanlaw.com/resource-centre/laws-and-regulations/labor/labor-contract-law-of-the-peoples-republic-of-china.html

          To them off at the pass:

          “Article 31 An Employer shall strictly implement the work quota standards, and shall not force or in a disguised manner force any worker to work overtime.”

          “Article 32 The refusal of an employee to perform dangerous tasks shall not be deemed as a breach of contract if he is forced to do so by the management staff of the Employer or if the instruction to do so is made in violation of regulations.”

          “Employee s shall have the right to criticize, report to the authorities or bring charges against their Employers in respect of working conditions that would endanger their lives and health.”

          Overtime is set per city.

          Can I have a “Huh, I didn’t know China had labour laws, and I didn’t know they were so similar to those in the USA” FTW?

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    This decision should be welcomed by all Foxconn workers. Instead of working 32 hours a day, they will only be required to work 26 hours a day – leaving plenty of hours left in the day for the “workers” to do their personal chores, errands, and recreation like the rest of the western world.

  9. Oh_No84 says:

    Sale Manager: “Sales are down we need to cut hours”.
    CEO: “Ok cut hours in production and we will tell the media we are cutting hours to make workers happier”.

    LOL

  10. Bob A Dobalina says:

    Let’s see, Apple did not grow for the first time last quarter. The Samsung Galaxy line is kicking iPhones butt as the glut of competing tablet computers has done to the iPad.

    So Apple cuts production and eliminates overtime- and people deem it a “beneficent act”

    if GM did that, those same people would be screeling about the rich screwing over the poor to maximize profits

    • luxosaucer13 says:

      Don’t worry, the decline in Apple’s sales will be remedied as soon as they release the next version of their “Fisher-Price: My First Smartphone.”

      I’m convinced that Apple could, at this point, release a pocket calculator that would normally cost $9 at any Wal-Mart, slap a fruit logo on it, price it at $500 a pop, and it’d sell out within 2 hours of launch.