China-based giant Foxconn has come under fire in recent years for the conditions at its work plants, which manufacture the iPad and Xbox 360, as well as other products for Dell, Nintendo, Sony, and other electronics companies. We reported earlier this year on an incident during which Foxconn workers allegedly threatened to jump from the roof of a Foxconn building over labour disputes, and that the company has had previous controversies regarding worker suicides and explosions at their plants. In response, Foxconn pledged to open its doors to scrutiny from international labour associations and even American media. Apple, too, after disturbing reports regarding its suppliers' labour practices, pledged to demand that all of its suppliers adhere to basic international labour standards.
Now, according to an audit from the Fair Labor Association, Foxconn is aligning its labour policies, particularly in regard to hours of over-time, with local laws. Previously, Foxconn employees worked up to 20 hours per week of over-time, where the law demands no more than 9 hours per week. Foxconn insists it will comply with the law, though it argues it will take them time to get there. Some employees are reportedly leaving Foxconn for more lucrative work since they will be unable to earn a satisfactory wage without the excess over-time (though Foxconn has raised wages at some plants over the past year). Meanwhile, Louis Woo, a special assistant to Foxconn's CEO, is quoted as saying:
It is a challenge. When we reduce overtime it means we need to hire more people and implement more automation, more investment on robotic engineering. More workers also mean more dormitories and recreational facilities; it takes time...But I expect more loyalty from workers as a result, and then we can save more costs on recruitment and retainment.
Woo indicated Foxconn expects worker efficiency and productivity to increase along with worker loyalty, even though Foxconn simultaneously claims it would be harder to attract workers while improving working conditions and decreasing over-time.
Foxconn has also pledged to improve both its safety standards and the conditions in its dormitories, and has given a deadline of 2013 to meet labour laws regarding over-time.
[image credit: iPhone Hacks]