The Fair Labor Association group tasked with auditing a Foxconn Technology Group plant in Shenzhen, China has found a ‘ton of issues’ that need fixing, according to a report from Bloomberg.
This report is interesting in light of the fact that Auret van Heerden, the president of the FLA, has already made an initial visit to the factories and found the working conditions to be far better than most other facilities in the country. Now, he says that they are finding a lot to report on.
“We’re finding tons of issues,” van Heerden said en route to a meeting where FLA inspectors were scheduled to present preliminary findings to Foxconn management. “I believe we’re going to see some very significant announcements in the near future.”
According to the earlier Reuters report, van Heerden said many positive things about Apple’s factories:
”The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm,” said van Heerden, adding that he was “very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory.”
Interestingly enough, according to the Bloomberg report, those comments were made after he told Reuters the above. The positive comments, said van Heerden, were based on his “previous interactions” with Foxconn.
Van Heerden and the FLA have been used by Apple to perform audits of Foxconn before. One of those instances involved an explosion at a Foxconn factory that was found to be caused by aluminum dust. A new process was created to avoid the issue following the audit and van Heerden said that he had “seen the improvements that have been made, and they’re dramatic. The room is full of robots. It’s totally automated. But people need to see the proof.”
There are reportedly around 30 staff members for the FLA performing the current survey, and they’re doing so using iPads. Around 35,000 workers will be interviewed, 30 at a time, and they will enter responses to questions onto iPads. These interviews will be done on the Foxconn site, something some experts say will make it more difficult to get honest answers.
Apple announced that it had reached out to the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit that investigates working conditions for laborers around the world, just last week. The organization was asked to perform voluntary audits for Apple on the Foxconn plants in Chengdu and Shenzen China, where it manufactures products like the iPad.
The mixed messages being delivered by van Heerden can’t be doing much to help Apple’s cause in the eyes of those who believe it is not doing enough to improve working conditions in its Chinese factories.
Perhaps the FLA should take a page from Apple’s book and just refrain from giving out any statements at all until it has finished its investigation.