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Report: Illegal overtime in Apple’s China plants

The Chinese workers who often spend more than 60 hours a week assembling iPhones and iPads will have their overtime curbed and their hourly wages raised after a labor auditor hired by Apple Inc. inspected their factories.

The Washington-based Fair Labor Association says Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese company that runs the factories, is committing to reducing weekly work time to the legal Chinese maximum of 49 hours.

That limit is routinely ignored in factories throughout China. Auret van Heerden, CEO of the labor association, said Hon Hai is the first company to commit to following the legal standard.

Apple’s and FLA’s own guidelines call for work weeks of 60 hours or less.

The FLA found that many workers at the Hon Hai factories want to work even more overtime so they can make more money. Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, told the FLA that it will raise hourly salaries to compensate workers for the reduced hours.

Heerden said it’s common to find workers in developing countries looking for more overtime, rather than less.

“They’re often single, they’re young, and there’s not much to do, so frankly they’d just rather work and save,” he said.

The FLA auditors visited three Foxconn complexes that employ a total of 178,000 workers, with an average age of 23.

Average monthly salaries at the factories ranged from $360 to $455. Foxconn recently raised salaries by up to 25 percent in the second major salary hike in less than two years.

Foxconn employs 1.2 million workers in China to assemble products not just for Apple, but for Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other pillars of the U.S. technology industry.

Foxconn’s move to lift wages is likely to have an impact across the industry. Given Apple’s unusually high margins, it’s able to absorb higher manufacturing costs. But other electronics companies, particularly PC makers, have very slim margins and may need to look elsewhere to have their products assembled.

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