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Apple vows to probe claims of labour abuse at iPhone factories

APPLE defended its ethical standards yesterday after a newspaper reported that factories in China relied on child labour, 24-hour days and unsafe conditions to make iPhones, iPads and computers.

In an email reportedly sent to Apple's 60,000 or so employees, Tim Cook, the chief executive, said Apple "cares about every worker in its supply chain". The letter appears to be in response to a series of articles in the 'New York Times' cataloguing the company's problems in China and divisions within Apple about how to handle the issues.

"Most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from," one unnamed former Apple executive told the newspaper.

Mr Cook's letter, which was reproduced on the website 9to5mac.com, promised Apple would "continue to dig deeper" into problems in China and that it would "undoubtedly find more issues".

"What we will not do, and never have done, is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain," he added.

"Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are."

As criticism of Apple has mounted and threatened to tarnish the brand, its shares have risen to record highs, especially after the company said it had doubled its profits in the first three months to $13.1bn (€9.8bn) because of sales of its gadgets over Christmas.

Apple has monitored its factories in China since 2007. However, as sales of Apple's gadgets have risen, putting intense pressure on the company's suppliers to drive up production, a spate of suicides, explosions and poisonings have occurred.

As Apple has improved and extended its monitoring, its annual reports have shown conditions worsening.

In the company's latest report, it found at least 90 factories were asking staff to work more than 60 hours a week. Apple also found five cases of child labour at factories.

In response to outside pressure and for the first time, Apple this year published a list of its 156 suppliers, representing almost all its supply chain. It also joined the Fair Labour Association, becoming the first technology company to do so.

Apple has also worked with Chinese labour rights advocates and environmental groups and has agreed to allow outside monitors into its suppliers' factories.

The criticism came as Apple regained the lead in global smartphone shipments from Samsung last quarter after starting sales of the latest version of the iPhone. The US company shipped 37 million smartphones in the three months to December 31, giving it a worldwide market share of 23.9pc. Samsung's shipments rose to 36.5 million, while those at third-ranked Nokia dropped to 19.6 million. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


Irish Independent