Foxconn improves worker conditions 'ahead of schedule'

Participants take part in a protest against Foxconn in Hong Kong on May 7, 2011. Foxconn produces electronic goods for companies such as Apple and Sony

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Foxconn, Apple's main manufacturer in China, has taken steps to improve working hours and conditions, said the US-based Fair Labor Association (FLA).

Health breaks and measures to guard against repetitive stress injury were some of the changes the FLA found after an inspection.

The report said Foxconn was ahead of schedule in implementing the FLA's recommendations.

The review came after a number of suicides at Foxconn factories.

Apple asked the FLA to investigate workers' conditions at the Taiwan-based company after reports of safety violations and long working hours.

After finding numerous violations of Chinese regulation in three factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, in March the FLA published a report with recommendations for improving conditions.

Apple and the FLA set out a 15-month 'action plan' with a deadline of 1 July 2013.

The report published Tuesday was a status update on the implementation of those recommendations.

It found that Foxconn has completed 284 of the recommended changes, with 76 more items due.

Although the deadline for compliance with Chinese labour laws is July 2013, the FLA says Foxconn has begun taking steps towards reducing working hours.

The company has limited hours to 60 a week, including overtime.

The FLA says Foxconn is aiming to reduce further to 40 hours a week plus an average of 9 hours overtime while protecting workers' pay. However, it added that this would be its biggest challenge in the coming year.

The three plants covered in the report employ 178,000 workers making Apple products.

Foxconn has 1.3 million workers in total, producing electronics for other companies including Sony and Hewlett-Packard.

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