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Foxconn iPad facility 'first class', says FLA

Fair Labor Association voice concerns about worker 'alienation', though

An initial inspection of Foxconn's iPad plants in China have showed working conditions to be better than the norm.

Reuters reports that the Fair Labour Association's president, Auret van Heerden, said that Foxconn's facilities were "first class".

"The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm. I was very surprised when I walked onto the floor at Foxconn, how tranquil it is compared with a garment factory," he said.

"So the problems are not the intensity and burnout and pressure-cooker environment you have in a garment factory. It's more a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps."

This is a problem that is common in other factories and around the world, van Heerden said. "You have lot of young people, coming from rural areas, away from families for the first time. They're taken from a rural into an industrial lifestyle, often quite an intense one, and that's quite a shock to these young workers.

"And we find that they often need some kind of emotional support, and they can't get it," he added. Factories initially didn't realise those workers needed emotional support."

Van Heerden and his team of around 30 FLA monitors have visited Foxconn's two facilities in Shenzhen and one in Chengdu. Over the next three weeks, around 35,000 employees from the three plants - over 10 percent of the collective workforce - will be interviewed anonymously on the subject of working conditions.

The inspections were prompted by Apple's concerns over conditions in its manufacturing chain after a series of New York Times articles painted a bleak picture of life for workers at Apple's supply partners in China.

Apple asked the FLA to inspect Foxconn's facilities, as well as those of Pegatron, Quanta and Wintek.

Van Heerden praised Apple's co-operative stance on the issue. "If Apple wanted to take the easy way out there were a whole host of options available to them. The fact that they joined the FLA shows they were really serious about raising their game," he told Reuters.

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