Apple has responded to an investigation that alleged serious worker’s rights abuses during the production of Apple products at Chinese manufacturing plants.
The investigation by the New York Times, which we reported on here, has led some to call for a boycott of the company. The NYT detailed a list of abuses, deaths, and injuries due to the crowded, poor and dangerous work environments. In all, the NYT says that 23 have died from explosions and suicides, and 273 have been injured.
It should be noted that Apple is not directly in charge of the manufacturing companies where the products are being made. The abuses allegedly occurred at plants in China owned by Apple suppliers.
Apple has not released a statement to the media about the allegations, but they have sent an email to their employees. In the email, which was made first published by 9to5Mac.com, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote:
“As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are. For the many hundreds of you who are based at our suppliers’ manufacturing sites around the world, or spend long stretches working there away from your families, I know you are as outraged by this as I am. For the people who aren’t as close to the supply chain, you have a right to know the facts.”
“Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we’ve made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people.”
“We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment. As you know, more than a million people have been trained by our program.”
“We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.”
It’s interesting to note that Cook does not specifically contest any of the allegations of abuse made in the NYT’s story. Only the allegation that Apple doesn’t care is directly addressed.
Prior to the NYT’s report, Apple released a report detailing its focus on worker’s rights at its suppliers plants. In the report, Apple said that they had conducted 229 audits of suppliers in 2011, an 80% increase from the previous year. They also say that they trained over 1 million supply chain employees about local laws, worker’s rights, safety, and Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct.