Apple said the Fair Labor Association (FLA) began auditing supplier Foxconn Technology Group’s (富士康科技集團) plants in China, its first inspections in an effort to respond to criticism of conditions for workers making its gadgets.
Assessments will take about two weeks and include at least four campuses in China, Louis Woo (胡國輝), chairman of Foxconn’s retail unit and a spokesman for the Taipei-based company, said in a telephone interview yesterday. More than 10 association representatives are now at two factories in Shenzhen and others in Chengdu and Zhengzhou, he said.
Apple, which became the first technology company to join the Washington-based labor group last month, has been criticized by human-rights organizations over conditions at suppliers, including Foxconn. Apple released a list of suppliers for the first time last month and publishes an annual report detailing instances of labor and environmental violations by some manufacturers.
As part of its assessment, the association will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions, including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management, Apple said in a statement.
Foxconn employs more than 1.2 million people in more than 18 countries, chairman and founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) said on Dec. 1. The company has operations in Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico, Slovakia and Vietnam, in addition to its China factories.
Representatives are inspecting Foxconn facilities and surveying workers at Longhua and Guanlan, Woo said. Many of the representatives speak Mandarin, he said.
Labor-rights inspectors started on Monday at a Shenzhen plant known as Foxconn City, Apple said in a statement.
“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,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said.
The FLA’s findings and recommendations from the first assessments will be posted early next month on its Web site. Similar inspections will also be conducted at Foxconn factories in Chengdu at Apple’s request, with similar audits of Quanta Computer (廣達) and Pegatron Corp (和碩) later this year, Apple said.
Pegatron chief financial officer Charles Lin (林秋炭) said by telephone that the company’s Shanghai factory was informed of the coming inspection within the last two days and hasn’t been given a schedule for the visit.
“The reason why Apple is having this FLA inspection is not because they want to solve the problems; instead, it’s because Apple wants to get publicity and rebuild its positive image,” China Labor Watch executive director Li Qiang (李強) said in a statement yesterday. “What Apple should do now is to take action to solve the problems and improve the labor conditions in their supplier factories.”
In addition to criticism about workers’ conditions, Apple is grappling with a dispute that has led some iPads to be removed from shelves. A newspaper in China’s Hebei Province reported that authorities seized iPads from retailers there because Hong Kong-listed Proview International Holdings Ltd (唯冠國際) claims to own the iPad name.
Proview is also asking China’s customs bureau to block imports and exports of iPads, Roger Xie (謝湘輝), the lawyer representing Proview, said yesterday.