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Report: Apple supplier in China shows improvement

By Kevin Voigt, CNN
August 22, 2012 -- Updated 1549 GMT (2349 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Fair Labor Association says Chinese plants of Foxconn have improved worker conditions
  • Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple products, has reduced overtime and improved safety
  • The company has been at the center of a storm of complaints about working conditions
  • A July audit found that most of the issues had been resolved on time or ahead of schedule

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The Fair Labor Association released a report Wednesday that Chinese plants of Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple products, have improved worker conditions.

The FLA said a June 20 to July 6 audit showed that "immediate health and safety measures" have been made, such as enforcement of breaks, changing equipment design to reduce repetitive stress injuries and testing of emergency equipment like eyewashes and sprinklers.

In the past two years, the company has been at the center of a storm of complaints about working conditions for its more than 1.2 million employees in China, especially after a spate of worker suicides. In 2010, Foxconn raised workers' pay twice at its factory in Shenzhen after the suicides, Chinese state media reported at the time. Foxconn said it had introduced counselors, started a 24-hour phone counseling service and opened a stress room where workers can take out frustration on mannequins with bats.

Inside a Foxconn factory

Last year, an explosion at a Foxconn plant that produces Apple's iPad2 killed four people and injured 18 more. Chinese officials said the blast may have been caused by combustible dust in a polishing workshop. The incident, in the southwestern city of Chengdu, followed a report by rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) that workers at the same plant do not have adequate training in the use of chemicals and do not have regular on the job health checks.

Rare look inside Foxconn factory campus
Foxconn audit shows 'excessive overtime'

The technology supplier has moved to bring working hours -- including overtime -- down to below 60 hours per week "with the goal of reaching full compliance with the Chinese legal limit of 40 hours per week, plus an average of 9 hours of overtime per week while protecting worker compensation," the FLA said in a news release.

Foxconn is part of Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., one of the world's largest suppliers of components for the electronics industry. Much of its manufacturing division is based in mainland China, where it assembles a range of products including Apple's iPhone and iPad, Amazon's Kindle and Microsoft's Xbox.

Apple became the first electronics company to join the FLA in January, and required independent audits of working conditions at Foxconn and other suppliers. A March audit by FLA found violations such as excessive overtime and proscribed 356 actions to improve worker conditions. The July audit found 280 issues had been addressed, with the remaining 76 required to completed by July 2013.

Poor conditions reported in June

"The verification confirmed that Apple and Foxconn are ahead of schedule in improving the conditions under which some of the world's most popular electronics are being made," Auret van Heerden, President and CEO of the Fair Labor Association, said in a press release.

"Apple and Foxconn's progress since the March assessment, combined with the additional actions planned through July 2013, would create the roadmap for all Chinese suppliers in the tech industry."

The group also praised Foxconn's efforts to change local legislation in Shenzhen to extend unemployment insurance to all migrant workers in the area, not just those who hold Shenzhen residence permits.

"Our hope is that our efforts will not only benefit Foxconn, but that they will also serve as a model for other companies and help improve working conditions for the manufacturing industry throughout China," said Louis Woo, Special Assistant to the CEO, Foxconn Technology Group.

"We are investing in workplace enhancements because our employees are our greatest asset and we are fully committed to continuing to ensure that they have a safe and healthy working environment."

When factory workers had enough

CNN's Paul Armstrong contributed to this report

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