The Fair Labor Association is conducting audits at Apple's part suppliers in Asia – including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China – at Apple's request. The Silicon Valley giant says a team of labor rights experts started inspections this morning.
“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers," said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports."
As part of its independent assessment, the FLA will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management. The FLA’s team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment.
While making no mention of it in the company's press release, there's little doubt that pressure from a pair of online petitions played a factor in Apple's decision to conduct the audit.
Change.org and SumOfUs.org held news conferences last week at various Apple Stores calling on the company to make an "ethical" iPhone 5, citing what they called worker abuse in Chinese warehouses that manufacture parts for iconic devices like the iPhone and the iPad.
Apple says it has audited every final assembly factory in its supply chain each year since 2006, including more than 40 audits of Foxconn manufacturing and final assembly facilities.