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Apple chief insists on commitment to improve Chinese labour conditions

Chief executive Tim Cook says Apple takes working conditions very seriously and fires any suppliers which knowingly hire underage staff

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has insisted that the company is committed to improving conditions for workers in its supply chain and eradicating underage labour.

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs technology conference, the transcript of which has been put online by Macrumors, the head of the world’s most valuable company tackled the topic of conditions in Apple’s supply chain in China and other countries, where the Fair Labor Organisation (FLA) has begun inspecting conditions in the factories carrying out final assembly of Apple products.

“Apple takes working conditions very seriously, and we have for a very long time,” Cook said. “Whether workers are in Europe or Asia or the United States, we care about every worker.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in factories, personally. Not just as an executive. I worked at a paper mill in Alabama and an aluminium plant in Virginia. Many of our top executives visit factories on a regular basis. We have hundreds of employees based there full time.

“We are very connected to the process and we understand working conditions at a very granular level. I realise that the supply chain is complex and I’m sure that you realise this.

“The issues around it are complex. Our commitment is simple: every worker has the right to a fair and safe work environment, free of discrimination, where they can earn competitive wages and they can voice their concerns freely. Apple’s suppliers must live up to this to do business with Apple.

“No one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple. We believe transparency is so very important in this area.”

Cook said the idea of using underaged workers was abhorrent and eliminating it in the company’s suppliers was a top priority. Having ended it among final assembly companies – which put the elements together into the final product – Apple would now remove it from other vendors in the chain. “If we find a supplier that intentionally hires underage labor, it’s a firing offence,” he said.

In January, Apple collected data every week on more than half a million workers in its supply chain, he said, and achieved 84% compliance – “significantly improved from the past, but we can do better. We’re taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website, so it’s transparent to everyone what we’re doing.”

Cook said the audit now under way by the FLA was probably the biggest in manufacturing in history. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds