Taiwan manufacturing giant Foxconn has agreed to improve conditions at its China-based factories, where workers assemble popular devices for iconic U.S. technology giant Apple and several other high-tech companies.
The company said it will increase the employees' wages, reduce their overtime hours and upgrade their living conditions.
Foxconn announced the changes after the U.S.-based monitoring group Fair Labor Association (F.L.A.) released a report Thursday detailing dozens of violations of Chinese labor laws and regulations, such as forcing employees to work more than 60 hours a week -- well above the maximum 49 hours mandated by Chinese law, and sometimes for several days straight -- without being properly compensated.
The report was the result of a survey of over 35,000 workers at three large Foxconn plants. The company employs more than one million Chinese workers to assemble popular Apple products such as the iPad and iPod.
F.L.A. President Auret van Heerden said the agreement between Apple and Foxconn could lead to similar changes at Chinese factories that build products for other U.S. technology companies such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
"Given that Foxconn and Apple have now decided to raise the bar and rather dramatically improve conditions for workers, other factories are going to start losing workers," said van Heerden. "Workers are going to choose to go work at Foxconn -- [where] you work less and you get the same money and you get time to spend it -- so other factories will have to raise their offer in order to be able to attract and retain workers.
"So in that sense, we are going to see this ripple through the entire electronic sector," he said. "And Apple and Foxconn will set the bar that everyone else will have to meet."
Apple called for the investigation after several employees at Foxconn plants committed suicide in 2010.
It was not immediately clear what effect the Foxconn deal will have on products assembled for its other digital vendors, which include Amazon, Nintendo, Sony and Intel.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.