Working conditions at Foxconn way above average, workers too bored, though
Chinese workers making iPhones and iPads have way better conditions than garment factories and the general average for China. That’s what the head of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) visiting the factories saw days after starting a visit of 8 major Apple suppliers in China.
Auret van Heerden, president of the FLA, shared his initial surprise about better than expected conditions at the Chinese factories, but warned that this is not a conclusion yet. He also warned that while working conditions per se are above average, it seems that there’s an underlying problem with montonous, boring work.
"I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory," Van Heerden said. "So the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory. It's more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps."
Apple has opened up for an inspection of its factories recently in an attempt to prove its words that it cares deeply about everyone of its workers. The company has responded to a report accusing it of negligence towards its overseas workers, which could have been the reason why we’ve been hearing reports about Foxconn employee suicides and shifts lasting more than 24 hours straight.
The FLA head noticed a lot of young people coming from rural areas to work at Foxconn, and after leaving their family many of them would seem emotionally crushed with the monotonous shifts. Van Heerden stressed that they also lacked emotional support.
As to the Fair Labor Association itself, it’s an independent body formed under President Bill Clinton in 1996 to minimize workers’ exploitation overseas. It’s trasnparent about its work and that’s what makes it tough - Apple’s suppliers could be visited without prior notification, and the reports of the FLA are public.
When it comes to Apple’s Chinese partners in particular, FLA will ask 35,000 employees to tell them about their working conditions under the condition of anonymity.