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Apple responds to the Chinese labor force

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During the past 18 months there has been steady improvement at three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple products, reports The Associated Press today. Other oppressive conditions cited have been improved and listed in the report from the Fair Labor Association. Although Apple has met 99 percent of the work conditions, long hours give it a failing report.

In an effort to raise work standards from the inhumane sweatshops reports of Apple’s supplier, the Cupertino, Calif. based company joined the Fair Labor Association last year as part of their efforts to improve the situation.

Foxconn Technology Group doesn’t comply with Chinese labor law by allowing some factory workers to exceed limits on hours even as the Apple Inc. assembler met the other conditions set by the monitoring group.

Restrictions on overtime were broken because labor shortages and employee turnover forced remaining staff to work longer hours to meet production targets, the Fair Labor Association said in a report yesterday. The group inspected assembly lines at the maker of iPhones and iPads for 15 months after releasing its initial audit in March 2012.

They made extensive strides in progress which is noted by Auret van Heerden, president of the Washington-based labor group. ‘Because of Foxconn’s weight in the labor market, anything they do tend to have a market-setting aspect to it. The government’s limit of 49 hours a week was always a very ambitious goal. They made phenomenal progress in getting to an average of about 52, 53 hours a week,’ said van Heerden.

Excessively long work schedules remain a problem, however. The FLA says more than half of the 170,000 employees at the Foxconn factories exceeded China's legal limit of 36 monthly overtime hours from March through October. Apple’s worker’s average work week of 53 hours is well below industry norms.

In its final verification report, completed last month, Foxconn was found to comply with 356 of 360 action items, or about 99 percent, with the four remaining issues all related to work hours, the FLA said. While progress has been made, three factories aren’t complying with Chinese labor law, it said due to those hours of over time in question.

Even as conditions at the Foxconn factories plants improve, there are recurring complaints about abuses at other Chinese facilities that make Apple products.

China Labor Watch, a non-profit group that monitors Chinese factories, said in a recent report that it uncovered a wide range of violations during an examination of factories in Shanghai and Suzhou run by Apple contractor Pegatron Corp. The problems included sexual discrimination, excessive working hours, poor living conditions and pollution.

FLA expects Apple to continue pushing Foxconn to pare the amount of time that Foxconn employees work.

Foxconn is part of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.

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