Apple CEO Tim Cook sent out a lengthy email to all of his employees that is a direct response to the recent reports of factory worker mistreatment. Cook’s message comes after The New York Times published the inside stories of working conditions in China factories which make parts or assemble Apple iPhone and iPad. Cook said, “We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain” …
The New York Times published a lengthy report with details about the harsh conditions of working in the factories of Apple product manufacturer. The report recalls the two explosions at iPad factories last year that killed four people and 77 workers injured. In addition, a former Foxconn executive said that Apple never cared about anything other than increasing their product quality and decrease the production cost. Another former Apple executive claimed that Apple knew about the labor abuses in China for four years, but the company still choose to go on. The main reasons is because Apple think that the system works for them, and they have actually became the one who force the China factories to cut safety.
These reports clearly hit Tim Cook’s sensitive nerve and he has responded the issue. Before Cook was promoted to become chief operating officer in 2004, Cook is credited with restructuring Apple’s manufacturing operations, completely farm out the work to third-party manufacturers and created the supply chain in China. This could explain why Cook has to clarify immediately on the mistreatment of factory workers. Here are the key points of his reply email:
To advertise the commitment to worker safety, Apple has already launched a “Supplier Responsibility” page on its website early this month, which details the actions it takes towards ensuring good working conditions and environmentally-friendly production practices. Apple has also opened its doors to the Fair Labor Association for evaluations. Interestingly, Apple is the first tech company the association has ever monitored because it specializes in clothing and textile manufacturers. Right now, Apple has to go into their suppliers’ factories, which mostly own by Foxconn and make changes.
It would seem that sharing profits with suppliers could be one way in which Apple could improve the working conditions in China. But this voluntary step would fly against market dynamics and there is no guarantee that suppliers would pass the benefits onto the workers. What incentive does Foxconn have to improve standards if they know full well that Apple’s entire business model relies on them ? The problem is not easy to solve. Apple is just as much to blame as the Chinese factories on labor abuses.
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