March 22, 2012
Apple said it made progress in February to reduce excessive employee overtime at its suppliers’ factories.
In a recent update to its Supplier Responsibility website, Apple said that in January, supplier-collected data about 500,000 employees showed that 84% complied with its maximum 60-hour work week rule. Last month, that compliance rate increased to 89%, and the average employee worked 48 hours per week, Apple said.
“That’s a substantial improvement over previous results, but we can do better,” Apple said. The Cupertino tech giant promised to continue providing monthly updates.
The website Daring Fireball first reported Apple’s update and noted that February’s reduced work hours likely occurred while production of the new iPad was in full-force. As part of its supplier code of conduct, Apple limits factory working hours to a maximum of 60 per week and requires at least one day of rest per seven days of work, barring emergencies or unusual circumstances.
Apple has come under fire in recent months over working conditions at its suppliers’ overseas factories. A recent New York Times exposé detailed gang-like working conditions and questionable safety practices at Foxconn, the main assembler of the company’s popular consumer devices.
In response, Apple asked the Fair Labor Association to investigate the facilities of its top eight manufacturing partners in China, starting with Foxconn. The FLA’s inspections got off to a controversial start last month, when the association’s president called Foxconn’s factories “first-class” and attributed a notorious string of worker suicides at the plants to “boredom.” Labor organizations called his remarks “hasty.”
Moreover, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based labor rights organization, said Foxconn hid underage workers from view during the inspection. Apple’s Tim Cook said recently, however, that using underage workers is “abhorrent” and “extremely rare.”
The FLA’s first full report is expected soon. Meanwhile, concerned customers have delivered petitions to Apple stores demanding the tech giant improve working conditions at overseas manufacturing plants.
One of the customers who delivered those petitions was Mike Daisey, who made headlines recently after NPR’s “This American Life” was forced to retract an episode in which it highlighted details of a trip Daisey took to China to inspect Apple suppliers. Another reporter found that much of Daisey’s report was fabricated or embellished. Daisey defended the discrepancies by saying he is not a journalist and often blurs the lines between news and theater.
Apple told PC Magazine last month that it conducted 229 audits at supplier factories around the world in 2011, and it increases the number of factories it inspects each year.
“We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain,” Apple said. “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. Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple.”
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