Friday, March 30, 2012

Foxconn exposed again

Once more and after repeated assurances that that they had addressed previous failings, Foxconn features in a new report decrying working conditions in China. A public investigation details "serious and pressing" concerns over excessive working hours, unpaid overtime, health and safety failings, and management interference in trade unions. The average age of all workers across the three plants was found to be 23, and many were migrant workers, with around a third of the workforce living in dormitories.

At Apple supplier Foxconn factories in China, which assemble millions of iPhones and iPads each year, the independent Fair Labor Association found that more than half of employees had worked 11 days or more without rest.

Despite several suicides, which raised the alarm two years ago, and an explosion that killed three workers last year, Foxconn still failed to consult workers on safety, with the committees "failing to monitor conditions in a robust manner". The management was found to be nominating candidates for election to worker committees, with the result that "committees are composed not by those who need representation, but instead are dominated by management representatives". This left workers feeling "alienated" and lacking confidence in safety procedures.

In December, 46% of the workforce clocked up to 70 hours per week, although Chinese labour laws say employees should work no more than an average of 49 hours a week, including overtime. The average maximum week was 61 hours, and between November and January more than a third of staff did not receive the statutory one day off in seven. While high turnover made Foxconn dependent on overtime, workers were often denied pay for extra hours, and around 14% were likely to have worked unpaid time. Overtime was only paid in 30-minute increments, so 29 extra minutes worked was not paid.

The use of student interns, supposedly on work experience related to their studies, but who are in fact used to supplement the workforce during holidays, was raised as of "major concern for external stakeholders", according to the report. The FLA found interns working both overtime and night shifts, in violation of the regulations, and said "their employment status remains vague and represents a major risk". Student labour peaks in the summer months.

Around two-thirds of workers said their take-home pay did not meet their basic needs, and the FLA will now conduct a cost-of-living study in Shenzhen and Chengdu.


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