Fair Labor Auditor Says Apple Factories In China Better Than Most

Hey, at least it’s not a garment factory. The head of the nonprofit Fair Labor Association — which Apple hired to do audits of the company’s factories in China — said the tech factories are better than garment and other manufacturing facilities in the area.

President of the FLA Auret van Heerden said he was impressed by the conditions at Foxconn after several visits, Reuters reported.

Audits of the eight factories Apple uses in China began on Monday starting with Foxconn Technology Group. Apple expedited the FLA’s audit after mounting criticism of working conditions at its factories. The results of the audit will be made public in March on the FLA’s website.

Foxconn is the most notorious of these factories for past explosions, worker suicides and strenuous hours of repetitive work. Apple made its list of suppliers public Jan. 13, but the company’s effort to be transparent didn’t quell the public’s dissatisfaction of alleged hazardous and inhumane working conditions in China.

The FLA will hold each factory to “140 specific compliance benchmarks” listed in its Code of Conduct. This document outlines rules against discrimination and age verification requirements.

Apple and other tech companies such as Sony and Dell utilize factories that hire low-paid workers. The workers are reported to have monotonous working conditions, but those conditions are supposedly better than available work in the rest of the country. The suicide rates at the Foxconn factory are less than average in China. Some have even gone so far as to say working at Foxconn can prevent suicide because the rate is much less than the national average.

There’s a lot of evidence to show that working conditions at Foxconn could stand to be improved. However, when it comes to overseas factory labor, there are gray areas.

Although factory labor conditions could be improved, the work results in relatively good wages, food and housing — a much better alternative to other types of work in underdeveloped regions of China. Young workers go to cities such as Shenzhen and Chengdu — two sites where Foxconn factories are located — looking for better opportunities, which these factories can provide.

Some people have wondered why the blame for poor factory conditions is resting on Appleextremely wealthy. Couldn’t a company that generated a record $46.3 billion in the first quarter of 2012 afford to make overseas conditions more liveable for workers?

The FLA was created under the Clinton Administration after Nike faced accusations of unfair and inhumane labor practices. Companies have no obligation to join FLA. In fact, Apple was the first tech company to do so. Apple likely wants to remain in the public’s good graces , so it may prove to be a wise decision to allow an audit by an unbiased organization to ensure its factories are humane.

Mashable sent an email to Apple for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

If the factories are found to be in violation of the FLA’s rules, what action do you think Apple should take to fix the problem? Are you pleased that Apple requested this audit from the FLA? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, veni

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