Apple's iPod manufacturing partner, Foxconn, has once again moved to quell recent reports into working conditions in its Chinese factories.

The hubbub began when UK newspaper the Mail On Sunday published an exclusive report into conditions at the iPod-making plants. The report sparked a wave of interest and a statement from Apple in which it said it took such allegations seriously. The company has now begun investigating the Mail's claims.

Yesterday, Foxconn senior vice president James Lee uttered strenuous denial of the claims, telling China's People's Daily: "In Shenzhen, our workers can earn at least 580 yuan ($72.50) a month, which is the minimum salary level fixed by the local government. Starting from this July, the basic salary will be adjusted to 700 yuan ($87.50) in line with the government's new standards."

He added: "It's hard to understand for many Westerners but it's true that many of our workers are willing to work overtime to make more money. We don't force them to work overtime and won't allow them to work overtime for more than 20 hours a week."

Lee said that the controversy is the result of the fierce competition Apple faces in the digital music market. "Its competitors are finding excuses to compete with it. That's the reason why we have been placed in the limelight," he said.

Speaking to DigiTimes earlier this week, Foxconn spokesman Edward Ding claimed that huge discrepancies exist between claims made in the report and the reality of working conditions at its Chinese iPod factory.

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