Infamous Apple supplier Foxconn said this weekend that it would increase worker salaries at its Chinese factories by 16 percent to 25 percent--bringing them to about $400 a month.
The New York Times reported the news, adding that Foxconn said the increases would happen immediately and that overtime hours would be curbed at the factories as well.
Apple is feeling the heat from human rights advocates and others after the Times published a series of exposés on the company and its supply chain, including Foxconn. It wasn't the first time Foxconn's practices had been called into question, but the high-profile paper's detailed reports helped push the issue into mainstream consciousness, sparking widespread editorials, calls for boycotts of Apple, petitions, and demonstrations at Apple stores.
In response, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a statement saying that any suggestion that Apple doesn't care about worker welfare is "false and offensive." Apple has also asked the Fair Labor Association, an organization that says it's "dedicated to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide," to investigate Foxconn facilities in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China. The FLA's report isn't due till next month, but the group's chief executive said this week that the FLA had already found "tons of issues" with Foxconn.
Foxconn doesn't exactly beg to be given the benefit of the doubt. Part of the company's reaction to a series of worker suicides was to install suicide nets--nets Apple critic and performance artist Mike Daisey said looked a lot like "the nets you would put out to catch fish." (The company raised salaries then as well, and hired more counselors.) Foxconn CEO Terry Gou also made a misstep when he sought management advice from the director of the Taipei Zoo and compared his workforce to animals, adding that "to manage 1 million animals gives me a headache."
The Times said Foxconn could not be reached for additional comment on the salary increases.
Editor's note, March 19, 2012: "This American Life" announced late last week that it's retracting a story it did recently about working conditions at Foxconn that included an interview with Mike Daisey as well as an excerpt from his monologue "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." It said it was doing so because of "numerous fabrications" it found. CNET's Josh Lowensohn has the details in this story. Daisey's own statement is on his Web site. A recent investigative report by The New York Times looked at working conditions in Apple's supply chain in China.