The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has revealed that working conditions at factories of Apple supplier Foxconn in China are “above average” and better than those at garment factories.
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has revealed that working conditions at Apple supplier factories in China are “above average” and better than those at garment factories.
The independent watchdog began its investigation earlier this week
at plants belonging to Foxconn for Apple, the firm which assembles iPhones and iPads and which has come under the media spotlight in recent years for a spate of employee suicides.
Since then Foxconn has attempted to improve conditions, even increasing worker pay, but that hasn't stopped the negative publicity both it and Apple has received over the treatment of its hundreds of thousands of employees.
This investigation could prove more beneficial for Foxconn and Apple than previously thought, however, as initial comments from the FLA are remarkably positive.
“I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory,” said Auret van Heerden, president of the FLA, according to Reuters. “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 facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm.”
Exterior of a Foxconn dormitory (according to Foxconn)
Of course, just because conditions are better than sweatshops does not necessarily mean that they are “good,” nor that improvements cannot and should not be made.
The final verdict on Foxconn's Shenzhen and Chengdu facilities has yet to be decided, with FLA staff planning to interview 35,000 of the factories' roughly 200,000 staff. Questions will include how the workers were hired, if they were paid a fee, if they were given contracts to sign and if they understood them, what the condition of their rooms and food is, whether or not complaints are acted upon, and what their emotional state is.
The fact that the FLA staff will be using Apple iPads to document their survey might raise questions over the firm's neutrality in this investigation, particularly given how laudatory its president has been before the probe has been completed.
An interim report on Foxconn will be released to the public in early March. Apple's other main suppliers in China, including Quanta and Pegatron, will be subject to similar investigations.
Image Credit: Foxconn