Amid public concerns of harsh working conditions, Apple has announced that a team of labor rights experts, under the leadership of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), will conduct audits of its final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, at its own request.
"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,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. "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 assessment, the FLA will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions, touching on topics like health and safety, compensation, working hours, and management communication. Apple said the FLA will inspect not just manufacturing areas, but also dormitories and other facilities.
Apple's suppliers have reportedly offered full cooperation with the FLA, which also plans to conduct inspections at Quanta and Pegatron plants later this spring, at which point the combined inspections will cover more than 90 percent of Apple’s product assembly suppliers according to the announcement.
The FLA's first findings and recommendations will be posted on the group's website in early March. This follows a supplier report published by Apple in January detailing the company’s own audits at all levels of its supply chain, from component suppliers to final assembly. The report covered everything from problems found, remedies taken, and in some cases, supplier relationships terminated.
The New York Times recently published an article detailing what it called the "human costs" of building iPads, iPhones, and other Apple devices. Concerns about Foxconn, however, have been going on much longer and Apple is far from the only major tech company to depend on them or similar Chinese manufacturing plants.