SAN FRANCISCO - A labor group monitoring three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple (AAPL) products says once-oppressive working conditions have steadily improved in the last 18 months, but more must be done to reduce the amount of overtime that employees work.
The audit released Thursday by the Fair Labor Association represents the final assessment in a process that
started last year at plants run in China by Apple's largest supplier, Foxconn.
Reports depicting the Foxconn plants
as inhumane sweatshops prompted Apple Inc. to hold its foreign contractors to
higher standards. The Cupertino, Calif. company joined the Fair Labor
Association last year as part of a commitment to improve the situation.
The report concluded Foxconn factories
in Longhua, Chengdu and Guanlan had reached virtually all the goals set out in
a plan adopted last year.
Excessively long work schedules remain
a problem. 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
Foxconn plants in Longhua and Chengdu
consistently limited workers' time on the clock below 60 hours per week during
the review period, according to the FLA. That met the labor group's standards,
but surpassed China's legal limit of 49 hours per week.
The Guanlan factory exceeded the
60-hour work week during seven weeks of the FLA's review period.
Foxconn is part of Hon Hai Precision
Foxconn's progress is "a
significant step in the right direction," said Auret van Heerden, FLA's
president. He said the FLA expects Apple to continue pushing Foxconn to pare
the amount of time that Foxconn employees work.
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.