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30 March 2012 | Adam Leach
An investigation sanctioned by Apple into the working practices of one of its suppliers, Foxconn, has found at least 50 issues including that accidents causing injury to workers were only reported if they halted production.
The report, conducted over a month at three Foxconn factories in China by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), found problems included breaching either the FLA code or Chinese labour law in areas such as working hours, health and safety and industrial relations.
Specific issues identified during the investigation, carried out during more than 3,000 staff hours and based on responses to 35,500 anonymous surveys, included breaches of legal working hours in all three factories, blocked exits, faulty protective equipment and insufficient worker representation on committees.
Following the investigation, which was commissioned by Apple after a series of controversial reports in the media about the conduct of Foxconn, Foxconn has agreed to reform its behaviour in a number of areas. It has agreed to reach full legal compliance on work hours by 1 July 2013, it will record all accidents that occur and it has already resolved issues such as the blocked exits. It will also increase worker participation in company and union committees.
Auret van Heerden, president and CEO of the FLA, said: “Apple and its supplier Foxconn have agreed to our prescriptions, and we will verify progress and report publicly…If implemented, these commitments will significantly improve the lives of more than 1.2 million Foxconn employees and set a new standard for Chinese factories.”
Following a series of stories in the New York Times, published in January, which criticised the company’s supply chain, Apple CEO Tim Cook told staff, in an e-mail, that the company would “aggressively” attack issues at suppliers. Cook also pledged to continue to develop efforts to scrutinise supplier conduct. “We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do, and never have done, is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this, you have my word.”