The printed edition of the Wall Street Journal will report tomorrow (paid subscription required or free metered view) that the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the designated supplier social responsibility auditor for Apple, has discovered multiple instances of average work weeks exceeding 60 hours along with other safety issues at prime contract manufacturer, Foxconn.  Also reported was that the FLA found that workers weren’t being fairly compensated for overtime, an issue that Foxconn, FLA and Apple are committed to fix.

Apple requested this audit earlier in the year in an effort to put more teeth into its social responsibility practices.

The audit was based, in part, on surveys of over 35,000 workers among Foxconn Chinese facilities located in Shenzhen and Chengdu.  The WSJ reports that the FLA found at least 50 legal or code violations. The FLA found that during some periods over the past 12 months workers worked an average of more than 60 hours per week, and there were several months in the past year where the majority of Foxconn workers exceeded China’s legal maximum of 36 overtime hours per month. The WSJ further indicates that the FLA report cited an average of 80 overtime hours worked per month.

Interestingly, FLA’s report indicates that 48 percent of worker respondents thought working hours were reasonable while 64.3 percent of workers thought their salary was not sufficient for basic needs. That certainly merits further discussion and analysis.

The report indicates that Foxconn has agreed to bring its factories in China within China’s legal limits by July 2013, and further indicates that Foxconn would need to recruit tens of thousands of extra workers to comply. In the article, FLA President and CEO Auret van Heerden is quoted as indicating that the findings were “no worse than any other factory in China”.

As Supply Chain Matters posted earlier today, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been visiting China this week and as we suspected, Mr. Cook took the time to visit and tour an iPhone assembly line at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou facility.

As a final note, we would not be surprised if Foxconn now decides to accelerate its investment and installation plans for factory automation and robotics in the wake of this latest audit development.

Bob Ferrari