Reacting to intense criticism of its labor practices, Foxconn has decided to raise the pay of its junior level employees by 16-25%. According to Reuters, workers will now make 1,800 yuan (US$285) a month with a raise to 2,200 yuan (US$349) possible if an employee passes a technical examination.
Foxconn, one of Apple’s biggest suppliers, and manufacturer of an estimated 40% of the world’s consumer electronics, last raised wages in June 2010 when employees got a 30% pay increase. The company released a statement praising its move:
We will provide more training opportunities and learning time, and will continuously enhance technology, efficiency and salary, so as to set a good example for the Chinese manufacturing industry.
But how far and above the norm is Foxconn going with its most recent move? It’s hard to tell because the minimum wage varies by region. According to an earlier Reuters report, in Shenzhen, where Foxconn’s biggest plant is located, the minimum wage is 1,500 yuan (US$238), meaning that Foxconn workers were barely getting paid above the minimum wage before the recently announced pay raise.
Shenzhen has the highest minimum wage in the country, however, which would mean that workers in Foxconn’s other factories — including the 120,000 workers in Chengdu — would be getting a significant pay increase.
This all comes after people questioned the integrity of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) — the group conducting the current voluntary audits of Foxconn’s facilities for Apple — after its president Auret van Heerden said that Foxconn’s “facilities are first-class” and that “Foxconn is really not a sweatshop,” despite the fact that the inspections have yet to finish, according to the New York Times.
It’s a bad slip-up for an organization that’s been criticized by other labor groups for essentially whitewashing the truth for the industries represented on its board. Still, the fact that Apple initiated third-party inspections at all is unusual for a consumer electronics company; paired with the Foxconn pay increases, it’s a sign that Apple is committed to combatting all of the negative press it has received following the most profitable quarter in the company’s history.