It’s only been four days since major global electronics manufacturing company Foxconn, of Taiwan, was found to have committed 50 labor rights violations over the past year in three Chinese factories, following a month-long audit commissioned by Apple, one of Foxconn’s major clients.
The audit was conducted by the Fair Labor Association, an industry self-regulating group dedicated to improving working conditions, to which Apple belongs and pays membership dues.
Foxconn, which assembles many of the world’s most popular consumer electronics, including Apple’s iPad and iPhone, is vowing to take immediate actions to make its workplace better for employees, including slashing overtime hours.
“We are a saying now in the company, ‘you work fewer hours, but get more pay’,” Foxconn’s Chairman Terry Gou told Reuters at a conference. “We won’t stop here and will continue to increase salaries.”
“Our employees are our greatest asset and we are fully committed to ensuring that they have a safe, satisfactory and healthy working environment,” Foxconn wrote in a press statement emailed to TPM and other news outlets.
Foxconn previously committed to raising workers wages 16 to 25 percent depending on an individual worker’s position and experience, up to $349 US (2,200 yuan) a month. Comparatively, average wages for manufacturing workers in China were found to be just about $160 per month, according to 2008 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most recent data set.
Foxconn workers, though, are worried about their company’s plan to cut hours, fearing a reduction in their overall earnings.
At the same time, the company has been hit again with allegations from activist groups that it employs underage laborers as interns for long hours and that the recent FLA audit failed to adequately address this problem.
A new report in UK newspaper The Guardian on Sunday corrals a number of Chinese media and activist reports on Foxconn interns, pointing out that “10-hour days and six-day weeks are standard,” for interns and that vocational schools are effectively forcing students into the internships by the thousands.
A report published by MSNBC on Monday found much the same thing, citing an advocacy group’s claim that interns earned just $79 a month, after the rest of their salaries was claimed by vocational schools.
The FLA claims in its report on Foxconn’s Chinese factories that the organization “made a special effort to understand and assess the risks of the internship system at Foxconn,” concluding that “in 2011, 2.7% of the workforce of Foxconn Group consisted of interns, an average of 27,000 interns per month,” but that internships at Foxconn peaked in the summer months, when interns consisted of 5.7 percent of the company’s total workforce.
Further, the FLA report found that “interns worked both overtime and night shifts, violations of the regulations governing internships” and that “general protections of the labor law do not apply to interns, including the social security benefits that normal workers receive.”
TPM has reached out to Foxconn for comment on the internships and will update when we receive a response.