Major global electronics supplier Foxconn, of Taiwan, engaged in numerous violations of Chinese workers rights over the past year, according to a just-released report commissioned by Apple, one of Foxconn’s primary customers.
The violations detailed in the report, released Thursday evening, detail unsafe working areas and massive instances of unpaid overtime, exceeding 60 hours a week, at the three Foxconn factories in China that were inspected. An estimated 35,000 workers were interviewed for the audit.
The 60-plus hour work week found at the factories is above both China’s official legal maximum, 49 hours, and the maximum standard allowable by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the organization that Apple paid to conduct what it said would be an independent audit.
“There were periods during which some employees worked more than seven days in a row without the required minimum 24-hour break,” the report states.
The FLA inspection also revealed that “more than 43 percent of the workers report that they have experienced or witnessed an accident,” and “a considerable number of workers felt generally insecure regarding their health and safety,” especially pertaining to aluminum dust, which caused an explosion at a factory in the city of Chengdu in 2011 that killed four workers and injured 77, as the New York Times reported.
The inspection uncovered “blocked exits, lack of or faulty personal protective equipment, and missing permits,” too.
In total, the FLA report found “at least 50 issues,” that needed to be corrected to bring the Foxconn plants. To be clear, that’s not just individual isolated incidents, but 50 broad practices that need to be fixed.
FLA CEO Auret van Heerden said in a statement that Apple and Foxconn had “agreed to our prescriptions, and we will verify progress and report publicly.” As part of that process, Foxconn had already agreed to repay workers for lost overtime wages and had immediately fixed some of the more straightforward safety issues, such as unblocking exits.
“We appreciate the work the FLA has done to assess conditions at Foxconn and we fully support their recommendations,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement released to the press Thursday, continuing:
“We think empowering workers and helping them understand their rights is essential. Our team has been working for years to educate workers, improve conditions and make Apple’s supply chain a model for the industry, which is why we asked the FLA to conduct these audits. We share the FLA’s goal of improving lives and raising the bar for manufacturing companies everywhere.”
Apple’s comments and the release of the report came one day after Apple CEO Tim Cook visited a Foxconn factory in China.
Apple joined the FLA in January 2012 and announced the audit a month later in response to several notable reports of inhumane working conditions at Foxconn’s Chinese factories, where Apple’s most popular devices — including the iPad and the iPhone — are assembled, along with devices sold by other leading American companies and Apple competitors including Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft and Dell.
Apple, however, has largely been the focal point of activists and the press concerning Foxconn’s poor record of labor rights issues in China, nominally because Apple is the world’s most valuable company.
SumOfUs.org, an advocacy organization that’s protested and petitioned at Apple stores for the company to make an “ethical iPhone” and other Apple products, tepidly applauded the report for its unflinching look, but said it was long overdue. Further, a SumofUs.org spokesperson told TPM that the company had not given up its campaign to have Apple put pressure on Foxconn to improve labor conditions.
“For months now, SumOfUs.org members have been calling on Apple to clean up the working conditions in its supply chain in time to produce the next iPhone be the first ethical iPhone,” the spokesperson told TPM, “That hasn’t changed at all. Our campaign is going to continue until real workers see real improvements — and so far Apple has been all talk and no action.”
Another such activist is Mike Daisey, a theatrical performer who recently admitted to fabricating details of his 2011 trip to a Foxconn factory in China for his one-man show and a popular episode of the public radio program This American Life (which subsequently retracted the episode). Daisey on Thursday was mostly silent on the issue of the FLA’s report, but did tweet and post to his blog a New York Times article on the report.