updated 06:10 pm EST, Fri February 17, 2012
Apple auditor FLA says Foxconn needs to be fixed
Fair Labor Association chief Auret van Heerden updated his opinions in a conversation on Friday that signaled possibly drastic action ahead. In talking to Bloomberg, he partly rescinded an earlier warm reaction and said the group was "finding tons of issues" at the contract manufacturer. He wouldn't say what these were, but he anticipated "very significant announcements" soon.
Apple had managed to effect some change, having Foxconn and fellow iPhone contract manufacturer Pegatron alter their device polishing equipment to curb plant explosions relating to build-ups for hazardous substances. Van Heerden noted that at least Foxconn was using a "totally automated" robotic process that dropped the need for humans altogether.
He elaborated that discussions of labor conditions would work through randomly selected, small groups of staff from a group of 35,000. They would send information directly to the FLA through Internet-aware tablets, hopefully avoiding any danger of the information being intercepted or mistranslated.
The auditing points to more substantial demands than in the past and possibly more authentic change. Among the multiple accusations leveled against Foxconn, and Apple by extension as a major customer, have been excessive overtime, harsh policies on breaks, and recruiting underage workers.
How well the FLA can account for every possible violation is still uncertain. Concerns exist that any advance knowledge of an audit lets a company like Foxconn hide or minimize the perceived problems, only to bring many of those offenses back once the auditors had left. Workers might similarly feel under pressure to present an ideal image of their conditions if they suspect their employer will find out later.