Foxconn Apple iPad Plant is “First Class” Says Fair Labor Association Head

Critics of Apple’s manufacturing practices in Asia might be in for a surprise, as the Fair Labor Association has given an initial assessment of Foxconn’s facilities as much better than other manufacturing plants in the region.

Foxconn's manufacturing facilities in China have been marred with suicides the past couple of years, although initial findings by the Fair Labor Assocaition attribute these problems more to stress brought about by "boredom and alienation." (Photo: AP)

In an interview with Reuters, the FLA’s president Auret van Heerden says Foxcon’s operations were “first class,” and that the workers’ conditions were “way, way above the average of the norm.”

This comes after Apple met with criticism over its suppliers — particularly Foxconn — supposely running sweatshops in its various China-based facilities. In response, Apple sought an independent audit, and FLA’s van Heerden has spent at least two days visiting Foxconn facilities in China.

Van Heerden adds that poor labor conditions might not be the facilities’ biggest labor-related problems. Rather, workers experience stress mostly due to “boredom and alienation.”

He expressed surprise at the working environment at an Apple’s iPad manufacturing facility run by Foxconn, saying it was tranquil, compared to a garment factory. “[T]he 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,” he adds.

Apple’s CEO has earlier decried the criticisms against the company’s manufacturing plants and practices in Asia, saying these are “patently false and offensive,” in an email to employees. In addition to establishing its “supplier responsibility” program, Apple has joined the FLA, which is an independent association that runs independent assessments of labor conditions of its members. Van Heerden says the assessment is very tough, and will involve “unannounced visits, complete access, [and] public reporting.”

The FLA has not issued any formal conclusions as yet, though, given that audits have just recently commenced. The organization will also run audits on Apple’s other suppliers, like Quanta, Pegatron and Wintek, among others.