Apple goes to war with the BBC: 'deeply offended' by allegations of poor treatment of workers...

Apple goes to war with the BBC

Exclusive: Chief executive Tim Cook 'deeply offended' by allegations made by BBC's
Panorama programme that Apple is failing to protect its Chinese factory workers

By Rhiannon Williams 10:48AM GMT 19 Dec 2014

Tim Cook is "deeply offended" by the BBC's allegations that Apple mistreats workers in its Chinese factories where the company's iPhones and iPads are assembled.

The BBC's Panorama programme sent undercover reporters to Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai, where it claims to have uncovered poor treatment of workers and a breach of standards on workers' hours.

In an email to around 5,000 staff across the UK, Apple senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams said both himself and the chief executive were "deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way".

"Panorama’s report implied that Apple isn’t improving working conditions," he continued. "Let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth."

Williams claimed that Apple had shared "facts and perspective" on the company's commitments to human rights with the BBC in advance, but that they were "clearly missing from their programme."

The BBC report alleged that workers fell asleep during 12 hour shifts on the iPhone 6 production line and were made to work 18 days in a row after repeatedly being denied requests for a day off.

Williams countered that Apple has tracked the weekly hours of over one million workers within its supply chain, and that its suppliers have achieved an average of 93 per cent compliance with the 60-hour workweek limit this year.

"We can still do better. And we will."

Apple employs around 1,400 manufacturing workers in China, whom Williams said were "talented engineers and managers who are also compassionate people, trained to speak up when they see safety risks or mistreatment."

"We know of no other company doing as much as Apple does to ensure fair and safe working conditions, to discover and investigate problems, to fix and follow through when issues arise, and to provide transparency into the operations of our suppliers," he said.

Panorama also claimed to find children working in dangerous conditions on the Indonesian island of Bangka, where it said tin from illegal mines could be entering Apple's supply chain.

"Apple has publicly stated that tin from Indonesia ends up in our products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines," Williams countered.

"Tens of thousands of artisanal miners are selling tin through many middlemen to the smelters who supply to component suppliers who sell to the world. The government is not addressing the issue, and there is widespread corruption in the undeveloped supply chain. Our team visited the same parts of Indonesia visited by the BBC, and of course we are appalled by what’s going on there.

"Apple has two choices: We could make sure all of our suppliers buy tin from smelters outside of Indonesia, which would probably be the easiest thing for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism. But it would be the lazy and cowardly path, because it would do nothing to improve the situation for Indonesian workers or the environment since Apple consumes a tiny fraction of the tin mined there. We chose the second path, which is to stay engaged and try to drive a collective solution."

The company spearheaded the creation of an Indonesian Tin Working Group with other technology companies, and is seeking to implement a system to hold tin smelters accountable, he added.

Williams, who has worked for the company since 1998, assured staff that Apple was taking the allegations seriously, and will investigate every claim made.

"We know there are a lot of issues out there, and our work is never done. We will not rest until every person in our supply chain is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," he concluded.

Pegatron said they were carefully investigating the BBC's claims, and will take "all necessary actions".

Apple told the BBC they worked with suppliers to "prevent excessive overtime and that no other company is doing as much to ensure fair and safe working conditions".


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