Foxconn workers unconvinced by FLA overtime limits

High profile campaigns pushing Apple and manufacturing partner Foxconn to slash working hours for production line staff may be perceived as a win for worker rights, but employees themselves are objecting to the sudden mandatory cut in overtime. "We have just been told that we can only work a maximum of 36 hours a month of overtime. I tell you, a lot of us are unhappy with this" one Foxconn worker told Reuters in the aftermath of the policy change. "We think that 60 hours of overtime a month would be reasonable and that 36 hours would be too little."

Foxconn has announced that it will be cutting total working hours permitted per individual employee to 49 hours, after claims that staff were being pushed to hit huge and improbable production goals. The industry furore even saw Apple CEO Tim Cook pay a visit a Foxconn production line this past week, having already met with officials to discuss future investments.

The production giant has told employees that their basic wages won't be cut; however a straw poll indicates not everyone is reassured. "We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important" Chen Yamei, who has worked for four years at Foxconn, pointed out.

"We are worried we will have less money to spend" a fellow employee, Wu, told reporters. "Of course, if we work less overtime, it would mean less money." Around a third of employees surveyed said they would opt to work more each week so as to earn more.

"FLA's investigation found that within the last 12 months, all three factories exceeded both the FLA Code standard of 60 hours per week (regular plus overtime) and the Chinese legal limits of 40 hours per week and 36 hours maximum overtime per month. During peak production periods, the average number of hours worked per week exceeded 60 hours per worker. There were periods in which some employees worked more than seven days in a row without the required 24 hours off" Fair Labor Association

Nonetheless, Foxconn will need to find some way of convincing production line staff, since it has committed to following the FLA's instructions and do so without impacting wages. "While employees will work fewer hours, Foxconn has agreed to develop a compensation package that protects workers from losing income due to reduced overtime" the FLA confirmed.

The FLA also secured a commitment from Foxconn to increase staffing, so as to make up for the overtime reduction. That is unlikely to mean higher device prices to end consumers, though, analysts told PC World; Foxconn is expected to absorb the costs itself, offset by producing more components in the iPad and similar gadgets in-house rather than looking to external suppliers. Still, it's likely that Apple will be wary of rising production expenditure: the new iPad, for instance, is already slimming profit margins thanks to more expensive components but no change in sticker price.