Apple Hires Independent Group To Audit Factories
February 14, 2012

Apple Hires Independent Group To Audit Factories

Apple Inc. announced on Monday that a non-profit labor group has begun an "unprecedented" audit of working conditions at some of its suppliers in China, including Foxconn, which has come under fire for poor working conditions and a rash of suicides in recent years.

"The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope," said Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in a statement released on Monday.

Labor advocates have long complained about problems at Apple´s overseas facilities, including alleged child labor violations and unsafe work environments.  Further concerns were raised last month following a scathing New York Times report describing a series of problems at Foxconn and other facilities where iPhones, iPads and other Apple products are manufactured.  The report triggered two online petitions and six demonstrations at Apple stores last week.

Critics have described Foxconn´s factories as a place where a primarily migrant labor force is subject to deplorable working conditions, including excessive work hours.

Apple said the Washington, D.C.-based Fair Labor Association (FLA) would conduct the audits, which will include visits to Foxconn´s factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, where a series of suicides were reported in 2009.

“The FLA will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management,” Apple said in its statement.

“The FLA´s team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment.”

Apple said an FLA team began the first inspections at Foxconn's facility in Shenzhen -- known as Foxconn City — on Monday morning. The team is also inspecting Foxconn's Chengdu, China, facility, where three people were killed last year in an explosion.   Inspections will also be conducted at facilities owned by Quanta and Pegatron.

Apple joined the FLA last month, announcing at the same time the results of its annual supply chain audit, which found that most of its plants were not in compliance with Apple´s limits on how many hours employees were required to work per week.  The review also revealed that 44 percent of Apple´s facilities did not implement ergonomic risk assessments to prevent repetitive motion injuries.

Apple has said it is working to bring conditions at its supplier facilities in line with its standards, and that it has put some 1 million workers through education programs on working hours, wages and labor rights.

“We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain,” said an Apple spokesman last week during an interview with the Washington Post.

“We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.”

The FLA said its team of labor experts will visit Apple´s supplier facilities within the next few weeks, and will make the initial results of its assessment publicly available in March.

In the mean time, investors continue to bid up shares of Apple´s stock, which surpassed $500 per share on Monday — a new record high.  The Cupertino, Calif.-based company´s market capitalization now stands at $465 billion.


Image Caption: Workers assemble and perform quality control checks on MacBook Pro display enclosures at an Apple supplier facility in Shanghai. Credit: Apple


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