Apple has received growing criticism over conditions for Chinese workers at Foxconn, the company’s main manufacturing partner in Asia since a New York Times exposé revealed oppressive working conditions and a slew of worker suicides.
According to Reuters, a new landmark decision by Apple and Foxconn will lead to improvements to conditions across-the-board with limits on working hours, elimination of illegal overtime, improved safety protocols and upgrades to worker dormitories and facilities.
An independent review of Apple’s overseas operations by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) disclosed several concerning findings, which included “extreme hours and unpaid overtime” amongst Foxconn’s Chinese 100,000 workers.
Industry observers, including HP Executive Meg Whitman have praised the initiatives to lift standards in China, but warn consumers that these increases in labor costs may flow through to higher prices at the cash register – “If Foxconn’s labor cost goes up … that will be an industry-wide phenomenon and then we have to decide how much do we pass on to our customers versus how much cost do we absorb.”
Not all Foxconn workers are happy with the changes however, which effectively mean an enforced reduction in earning potential. With overtime, workers in the southern province of Guangdong were able to earn 4,000 yuan a month at Foxconn, in a region where the minimum monthly wage is just 1,500 yuan.