Apple answers its critics
What's happened? Apple chief executive Tim Cook said this week that ensuring safe working conditions at the company's plants is a priority. He was responding to criticism over working conditions at Foxconn. Americans are appalled at reports of worker abuse and bad conditions at the plant in Shenzhen, which has become notorious for the number of staff that have committed suicide. Apple has been badly stung by recent reports suggesting that the maker of the iPad does not care about conditions in the factories of its suppliers. Apple has asked the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to investigate.
Where is this factory? Foxconn's biggest mainland plant is in Shenzhen, but it has nine in total. It is also the mainland's biggest private employer, with hundreds of thousands of workers. Its other factories are in Europe, India, Brazil and Mexico.
Who else does Foxconn supply? Such industry giants as Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Nintendo, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.
Why has Cook asked the FLA to step in? Rumours of bad working conditions at Foxconn have hurt Apple's image. The trouble started in 2009 when a worker, Sun Danyong, killed himself after he lost an iPhone prototype. A spate of suicides followed, with 14 people dying in 2010. Mainland universities carried out a study of working conditions and condemned Foxconn for worker abuse and safety issues. This was taken up by the US media and soon people were signing petitions calling for action. But the company's mainland critics say the FLA reports are just a publicity stunt.
When will the FLA start their inspection? Cook says they are already on the job. Their assessments will take about four weeks. Apple joined the FLA last month.