Apple announced Monday that the Fair Labor Association (FLA) will be conducting audits of its iPhone and iPad assembly plants, including both of its Foxconn factories in China. The announcement comes on the heels of a wave of reports suggesting that supply chain workers for the Cupertino-based company have been subjected to unsafe and unjust labor conditions.
The FLA’s first audit will take place Monday morning, Apple said, at its Foxconn City facility in Shenzhen, China and will be led by FLA president Auret van Heerden.
"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," said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a statemen. "The inspections now underway 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."
As part of its assessment, the FLA will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions within their respective facilities, inquiring specifically about health and safety protocols, compensation, working hours and communication with management. The FLA will also inspect the plants’ manufacturing areas and dormitories, and "will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment," Apple said.
The New York Times published an investigative story in January that exposed harsh working conditions at Foxconn, including cases of involuntary labor, under-age workers, record falsifications, and improper disposal of hazardous waste.
The story spurred a string of protests last week outside of Apple retail stores in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York, Bangalore, London and Sydney. Protestors brought petitions gathered through Web sites Change.org and SumOfUs.org which have received a quarter million signatures.
Apple said its suppliers have pledged full cooperation with the FLA, and will offer unrestricted access to their operations. Findings from the FLA’s audits, along with recommendations from its first assessments, will be posted in early March on its Web site, www.fairlabor.org.
Similar inspections take place at Apple’s Quanta and Pegatron facilities later this spring. When completed, the FLA will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled, the company said.