(NaturalNews) An audit instigated by tech giant Apple has exposed slave labor working conditions at assembly plants owned by China-based Foxconn, one of the world's largest manufacturers of electronic components. Foxconn manufactures the vast majority of consumer products sold by companies like Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard, a fact that has sparked much outcry by human rights advocates.
According to AFP, a Fair Labor Association audit has exposed numerous violations at Foxconn plants. Chinese law prohibits employees from working more than 76 hours per week, for instance, and yet thousands of Foxconn employees at each of the company's plants were found to regularly exceed this limit. And many of these same employees did not receive fair compensation or overtime pay for their exorbitant amount of labor.
Thousands of employees were also found to have worked more than seven days in a row without being given a break, while more than 50 percent of Foxconn's 1.2 million employees exceeded even the legal limit for overtime hours. By all reasonable estimations, these appalling working conditions at Foxconn plants amount to nothing other than slave labor, for which American consumers and others are receiving the benefit in the form of less-expensive electronic products.
Besides labor issues, Foxconn plants were also found to be riddled with health and safety violations. According to the Washington Post, some of the plants were filled with toxic aluminum dust so dense that an explosion actually occurred last year at the Chengdu plant. And when surveyed, an overwhelming number of Foxconn employees indicated that they have little confidence in the safety of their work environments.
In conjunction with his company's voluntary audit, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently took a trip to visit Foxconn's plants, upon which Apple made a commitment to work towards improving working conditions. As of February, Apple says 89 percent of its suppliers are now in compliance with a 60-hour maximum work week, and that it will continue to put pressure on Foxconn and others to treat their employees better.
"We think empowering workers and helping them understand their rights is essential," said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling, confirming that conditions at Foxconn are poor and in need of improvement. He added that Apple is working hard to make its supply chain "a model for the industry."
Though Apple has been hogging the spotlight concerning this issue in recent days, it is actually the only company that has taken a proactive step to remediate it. Dell, Microsoft, and the others, who also contract with Foxconn, have made no such efforts, as far as we are aware.