Fears that an investigation, into Chinese factories producing Apple goods, would be a whitewash have been quelled following manufacturer Foxconn's pledge to cut working hours and increase pay.
The company, which is the main producer of iPhones and iPads, has promised to stamp out violations of labour rights in its facilities and ensure compliance with Chinese legislation on maximum working times following the publication last week of a scathing assessment by the Fair Labor Association. In compensation for reduced hours, workers' pay will be increased.
Prior to the report, campaigners had expressed serious doubts over the independence of the FLA as an monitoring body due to allegations that it is funded by Apple and other companies it is supposed to scrutinise. Labour organisations also cited the poor track record of the FLA as an impartial referee in industrial disputes.
Now they will claim a victory after the FLA's withering verdict on the reality of conditions on production lines in Foxconn's vast factories, following sustained pressure for transparency.
FLA President Auret van Heerden believes the impact will be felt far beyond Foxconn's facilities.
"Apple and Foxconn are obviously the two biggest players in this sector," he said in an interview with Reuters. "Since they're teaming up to drive this change, I really do think they set the bar for the rest of the sector."
Analysts say the final word on Apple's ethical standing will be judged by the effectiveness of Foxconn's pledge - and if the FLA is willing to enforce them.
Richard Parker, MD of technology PR agency EML Wildfire, told Computerworld UK: "Apple has been really smart with this - it has used a soft touch and actually addressed it more directly than it tends to with topics. Now the hard bit comes in addressing the true challenge and ensuring the results speak for themselves.
Photo of Foxconn Factory in Shenzen - Magnus Manske
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