Its starting with more comfortable seating and new classes

It's been a pretty tough road for Foxconn, but it looks like conditions are getting better.

According to a new report from The New York Times, Foxconn is making crucial changes around its factories in China in an effort to improve working conditions for employees.

Changes include offering more comfortable seating arrangements for employees that spend long hours on the line. Before, they were given small, wooden stools because it was believed that comfortable seating would lead to laziness. However, many employees started having issues like back pain.

In addition, Foxconn is now offering recreational courses that employees can take in their spare time, such as knitting.

As for the future of Foxconn, it vowed to make sure no employee works over an average of 49 hours per week by July 2013 to address overtime issues.

Apple, which has its gadgets like the iPad manufactured at Foxconn's plants in China, has also stepped up by employing more safety and corporate responsibility staff to keep an eye on the conditions of workers -- both in the U.S. and abroad.

While these changes haven't resulted in perfection quite yet, it's a great start. By agreeing to random audits by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and others, Foxconn is working on making its factories a safe environment for employees.

There were reports saying that Foxconn wanted to just replace all human employees with robots by 2014. In fact, Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou said in 2011 that he wanted 300,000 robots installed by the end of 2012 and a total of 1 million by 2014. However, in June of this year, it was apparent that those targets weren't going to happen. Instead, he hopes to have "monotonous" tasks eliminated through automation within a few years and fully automated plants in five to 10 years. As it turns out, robots are expensive (anywhere from $2.1 billion to over $10 billion for fully automated plants, depending on the type of robots used).

Now that the robot plan won't exactly pan out anytime soon, Foxconn is making the workplace a bit more relaxed for the human employees it currently has.

Foxconn has been under the microscope since 2009 for various troubles like worker suicides, explosions in the plants due to aluminum dust build-up and other unsafe working conditions, riots, excessive overtime, low pay, etc.

The company came under fire earlier this year when The New York Times published a massive article on the working conditions of Foxconn factories. Apple was also targeted because the report mentioned Apple's lack of action when receiving reports on these poor working environments and overtime/pay issues.

Foxconn gave employees a pay boost earlier this year and is cleaning its act up slowly but surely to comply with audits. 

While Foxconn's efforts are a huge part of this, The New York Times also noted that Apple must be more open with its most recent practices and results when it comes to cleaning up Foxconn's act. This would allow other companies that use Foxconn, like Nike, to do the same.

Source: The New York Times

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