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Apple signs up to let monitors into factories after 15 deaths


By Noel Young, Correspondent

January 13, 2012 | 4 min read

Following at least 15 deaths at its Chinese parts makers, Apple is to let outside monitors into factories of suppliers such as Foxconn Technology Group, reports Bloomberg Business Week.

Bill Clinton: his initiative

Apple joins Nike, Nestle and Syngenta in turning to the Fair Labor Association, set up in a 1999 initiative by former U.S. President Bill Clinton to monitor workplace conditions globally. The FLA describes itself as a "nonprofit organisation dedicated to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide."

Apple is the first technology business to sign up to the FLA as a participating company, the Washington-based body said today in a press release.

The FLA said Apple's membership, was "effective immediately".

The statement added, "The FLA will independently assess facilities in Apple's supply chain and report detailed findings on the FLA website."

Nike became a founding member of the FLA after reports of low pay, abuses and poor conditions at sportswear factories in Asia sparked boycotts and protests in the 1990s.

FLA President Auret van Heerden, said, “Most big corporations have their ‘Nike moment’ at some stage -- when they realise the difficulties of maintaining their standards, particularly in an increasingly global environment. “The problem with the supply chain is that it’s a moving target.”

Apple suppliers include South Korea-based Samsung and Hynix Semiconductor . The FLA makes unannounced checks on about 5 percent of its members’ supply chains each years

At least 12 workers have committed suicide at plants in China owned by Taiwan’s Foxconn, Apple’s biggest supplier. Three died last year and more than 70 were hurt in blasts at two iPad facilities, one also owned by Foxconn.

In response to pressure from Apple and the media, Foxconn more than doubled wages in 2010 for some workers in China and employed counsellors, said Bloomberg,

Apple will now subject itself and its suppliers to the FLA’s membership criteria, including audits and a code of conduct based on standards approved by the United Nations’ International Labor Organisation.

Van Heerden said.“If you’re a 16-year-old girl in a developing country, your best chance of enjoying proper rights is if you get to work at a multinational. The power of their contract is more powerful than the power of law.”

Apple has 380 direct suppliers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Taipei-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Foxconn’s flagship listed unit, gets 22 percent of its revenue from Apple, the data show.

ALSO YESTERDAY Apple disclosed a list of its major suppliers for the first time. The Wall Street Journal described this as " moving to combat an array of criticism about working conditions in its supply chain and the company's transparency about them."

The list of 156 companies came along with a major report divulging the results of its recent factory inspections, said the WSJ.

The report said Apple found continued problems in areas such as working hours and inadequate benefits. It said Apple's suppliers were in compliance with the company's code of a maximum of a 60-hour work week only 38% of the time. The company said factories fared better in other areas like fair treatment.

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