The Fair Labor Association accused of being too easy on Apple and Foxconn

The working conditions inside Foxconn’s plants are constantly under scrutiny. But different reports seem to paint different pictures about what it’s really like beyond the gates. One month we’ll hear that Apple isn’t doing enough to prevent child labor and long hours inside the factories. And the next we’ll hear the opposite, with the factories passing inspections and praised for their improvements.

So what gives? Well according to a new study, the Fair Labor Association — the group responsible for holding Apple and its supply chain accountable for this stuff — has been going way too easy on them and has even been fabricating its reports…

CNET reports:

“The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), an economic policy think tank focused on the needs of low- and middle-income workers, criticized the Fair Labor Association in a briefing paper published today, saying its “rosy” determination that a “genuine transformation is under way” in Foxconn’s factories are “unfounded.”

The EBI paper said Foxconn is far from being in line with fair labor regulations, and continues to hold back pay and push employees to work long hours, skirting the problems with poor attempts at reform.”

…”In contrast to the FLA’s glowing assessment, improvements in working conditions at Foxconn have in most cases been modest, fleeting, or purely symbolic, while some key reform pledges have been broken outright,” the EBI paper reads.”

Yikes. Apple garnered a lot of attention earlier this year for being the first electronics giant to join the FLA as a participating member. But despite the positive press, the Cupertino company and its number one iDevice-maker Foxconn have remained in the spotlight with negative headlines.

A major lightning rod in recent months has been iPhone 5 production. It’s been said that Apple’s excessive demands in both quantity and quality output of the handset have resulted in longer work hours and disgruntled employees. Foxconn even admitted yesterday that it was struggling.

It’s not that Apple and Foxconn are the only companies guilty of encompassing poor working conditions — several others are just as bad or worse. But the fact that the character and judgement of the FLA is being called into question is not a good sign. Who’s going to monitor the monitors?