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Apple Asks Fair Labor Association for Factory Inspections

Apple has seen significant pressure from labor rights groups and customers over the treatment of staff manning the factories where the iPhone and iPad are built. Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a rather sobering piece on the general business surrounding the China-based manufacturing facilities employed by Apple and many other consumer electronic and computer companies. In late January, Tim Cook penned a letter to the Apple team insisting that his company takes the welfare of its workers very seriously. "We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain," he said. Today, Apple went a step further and announced that it had requested that inspections be carried out in its factories.

Apple said this morning that the Fair Labor Association will conduct special voluntary audits of Apple’s final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China. The first inspection will be carried out at the 'Foxconn City' facility in Shenzhen. A team of labor rights experts led by FLA president Auret van Heerden are said to have begun the inspection this morning, with Quanta and Pegatron on schedule for inspection in the spring.

The inspection process involves assessing manufacturing areas and dormitories, as well as interviewing thousands of employees about working and living conditions, health and safety, compensation, work hours, and communication with management. Apple's manufacturing partners have promised the FLA full cooperation and unrestricted access to their facilities.

"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 CEO Tim Cook. "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."

Last Thursday, Apple customers marched in protest over the alleged mistreatment of factory workers. Demonstrators headed for Apple's headquarters and stores located in Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco, London, Sydney, and Bangalore to deliver petitions signed by 250,000 people. Customers are demanding Apple develop a worker protection strategy for those constructing its products.

The results of the FLA inspections will be posted online in March, so we'll keep you posted on this topic.

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