Apple investigates 'sweat shop' factories following suicide threat
APPLE has granted access to several controversial factories in China to a charity that campaigns to end "sweat shop" conditions.
The technology giant, which has faced criticism over working conditions at some of its suppliers’ plants in China, said today that it had asked the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to conduct “special voluntary audits” of several facilities, including factories owned by Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, in Shenzen and Chengdu.
A team of inspectors from the not-for-profit organisation, which is headquartered in Washington DC, started inspections this morning at the Foxconn City plant in Shenzen.
Apple’s problems with Taiwanese company Foxconn, which manufactures almost all of its devices, date back as far as 2010 when a string of workers committed suicide at a plant in Longhua, which employed between 300,000 and 400,000 workers.
However the troubles have continued and last month 150 Foxconn employees threatened to leap from the top of a three-floor plant in Wuhan amid allegations they were paid piecemeal and were expected to work in a pressured environment without any training.
The New York Times claimed in an investigation last month that Apple had failed to live up to its promises to improve working practices at factories in the Far East.
Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, said in a statement today: “We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers.
“The inspections now under way are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”
Suppliers, including Foxconn, have agreed to give “unrestricted” access to their plants, Apple said.
Inspectors will interview thousands of workers about their living and working conditions – including pay, health and safety and hours. Results from the investigation will be posted on the FLA’s website next month. [March]
Apple also insisted that it has audited every final assembly factory in its supply chain every year since 2006. As part of this, it has conducted more than 40 audits of Foxconn manufacturing and final assembly facilities, it said.
Foxconn also manufactures gadgets for Sony, Nintendo and HP.
Shares in Apple today surpassed $500 for the first time, when trading started in the US.