A group based in Hong Kong this week issued a report alleging continued Foxconn worker abuse, and questioned some of the promises made by the contract manufacturer to live up to its code of conduct.
Watchdog group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) said despite promises to improve, Taiwan-based Foxconn continues to expose workers to health and safety risks on the assembly line and shop floor. SACOM also alleged that Foxconn is forcing employees to work up to 100 hours a week while denying appropriate pay increases.
Foxconn, which assembles products like the iPhone, iPad and iPod for Apple, has came under scrutiny over the last few years after a string of suicide attempts at facilities in China. The company has been criticised by the media over allegedly employing underage workers and not taking steps to improve work conditions.
In the past, Foxconn said it was implementing policies and taking corrective action to improve working conditions. Executives from Apple, including Chief Operating Office Tim Cook, in June last year visited Foxconn's Shenzhen factory to better understand conditions at the site and to evaluate measures Foxconn was employing to improve work conditions and prevent further suicides.
In a supplier responsibility report published earlier this year, Apple commended Foxconn for taking measures such as hiring psychological counselors, establishing a 24-hour care centre, and attaching nets to factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides.
Foxconn may have made promises to increase wages and look after the health and safety of workers, but little has changed, SACOM wrote. A "military-styled management" is still in practice, and workers have no choice but to submit to the culture of the company. Workers are not provided with appropriate health and safety information and equipment, and there is no clear way for employees to report grievances, SACOM wrote.
"Throughout the investigation, when researchers asked about the feeling of Foxconn workers about the hardship of workers, like low wages, potential harm of occupational diseases, work pressure and exhaustion, the typical answer is 'I get used to that'. Despite [the airing] of grievances by staff, many workers feel it is helpless to bring changes," SACOM wrote.
In a statement responding to SACOM's study, Foxconn acknowledged that it was not perfect, but also said "we are far from the company portrayed by SACOM".
"We have made tremendous progress over the past year as we work to lead our industry in meeting the needs of the new generation of workers in China and that has been confirmed by the many customer representatives, outside experts, and reporters who have visited our facilities and openly met with our employees and our management team," the statement said in part.
Foxconn said it follows the work-hour guidelines set by Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, which calls for a maximum 60-hour work week, including overtime. The company is also helping employees deal with challenges inside and outside the workplace through specific programs and policies. A 24-hour support hotline with trained counselors has also been established to help employees.
"Those initiatives, together with actions we have taken to ensure that we are paying the highest wages in our industry in each location where we operate, have been well-received by our employees and the numbers speak for themselves, lives have been saved and employee retention is at an all-time high," Foxconn said.
Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Foxconn is a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industries, an electronics manufacturer based in Taiwan.