Apple Inc., the California-based maker of the iPhones, has confirmed that the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an independent, U.S. organisation that has set itself the target of eliminating all sweatshops in the world, has begun inspecting working conditions at various factories in China. The factories are of various Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), who produce the components Apple needs for its smartphone and tablets. The inspection is being carried out at Apple's request.
The inspections come in the wake of a series of accusations and allegations over the sweatshop-like working conditions of Apple's OEM partners in China, including Foxconn.
In January, the New York Times ran an article in which they spoke of an explosion at one of Apple's manufacturing facilities. The report went on to detail instances of "employees working excessive overtime... living in crowded dorms... under-age workers... improper disposal of hazardous waste... and falsified records". Since then, there have been continuing reports of sweatshops and poor working conditions.
More recently, the company came under renewed scrutiny after workers at Foxconn-owned factories threatened to committed suicide. A report by The Telegraph said approximately 150 workers assembled on the roof of the three-storey plant and took nearly two days to be coaxed down.
"We were put to work without any training, and paid piecemeal," said one of the protesting workers, who asked not to be named. "The assembly line ran very fast and after just one morning we all had blisters and the skin on our hand was black. The factory was also really choked with dust and no one could bear it," he said.
Following these reports, allegations and criticisms, Apple has finally agreed to an inspection of their facilities. To that end, the tech giant joined FLA last month.
"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 Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tim Cook said in a statement.
"The FLA's team (to be led by the organisation's President Auret van Heerden) will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment," the company added, also noting, "The inspections now under way 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."
According to a Mail Online report, the FLA plans to interview thousands of employees at several Apple suppliers. The audits will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are put together.
The investigations will also cover other suppliers, later in the spring. The first reports of these investigations, it is understood will be available in March.