Exactly a month after Apple became the first technology firm to join the independent Fair Labor Association, dedicated to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide, the FLA today began inspections at Apple's biggest Chinese supplier, Foxconn.
At Apple's request, An FLA team moved into Foxconn City in Shenzhen where Apple's iPhones and iPads are assembled. Hundreds of thousands of workers are employed and housed at the complex.
In 2010 the man now running Apple, Tim Cook, flew there after nearly a dozen workers committed suicide. He was accompanied by "two leading experts" in suicide prevention recruited by Apple.
He pressured Foxconn to improve working conditions. One move was to hang large nets from the factory buildings, from which some workers had jumped to their deaths.
In a press release on today's move, Cook said, “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. The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope.”
Apple's move follows a report last month in the New York Times in which workers reported on accidents and long hours in Foxconn factories. The company, part of the Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industry Company , denied back-to-back shifts and crowded living conditions.
The audit which began today is a massive undertaking. The FLA plans to interview thousands of employees at Apple suppliers about working and living conditions. Facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled will be audited.
The FLA will post its findings and recommendations on www.fairlabor.org beginning early next month.