The investigation into the working conditions at Apple’s foreign assembly factories, especially those in China, has scarcely begun, and already the group conducting them has found that conditions aren’t that bad, Reuters reported. The auditors are making 35,000 employees at two Foxconn factories in China fill out questionnaires on the iPad, a product the workers themselves assembled.
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a trade group that Apple joined in January. Apple recently commissioned the FLA to conduct what Apple says will be the most comprehensive audits in the company’s history, following increasing protests over reportedly inhumane working conditions at the Chinese Foxconn factories, where Apple’s most popular products are assembled.
The audits began Monday, according to Apple and the FLA, and the results aren’t due to be published until March.
And yet, just three days later, the FLA is already saying that the physical conditions at Foxconn’s Chinese factories are better than “the norm,” for the country.
“The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm,” said FLA president Auret van Heerden, Reuters reported, adding “I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory…So the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory…It’s more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps.”
The FLA is conducting the audit by making workers fill out anonymous questionnaires on the iPad in batches of 30 at a time, Reuters reported. About 100,000 workers are employed at each of Foxconn’s two factories being audited, but only 35,000 are being interviewed as part of the investigation.
Some workers rights advocates have have cheered Apple’s new audit as meaningful progress towards more ethical products, but others have criticized the FLA as nothing more than a “corporate mouthpiece,” and the audits as a “whitewash,” of the exploitation of workers.