Cook 'deeply offended' by BBC allegations about Apple factory workers

Apple chief Tim Cook is “deeply offended” by allegations made in BBC’s Panorama that the technology giant mistreats workers at its Chinese factories.

Cook 'deeply offended' by BBC allegations about Apple factory workers

Apple chief Tim Cook is “deeply offended” by allegations made in BBC’s Panorama that the technology giant mistreats workers at its Chinese factories.

The programme sent undercover reporters into the Pegatron factories near Shanghai, where Apple’s iPhones and iPads are assembled, and it claims to have uncovered instances of poor treatment of workers, including breaching rules on worker hours.

In an email sent to over 5,000 UK staff, Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations said: “Tim and I are 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.”

The email hit back at the BBC and said that Apple monitors the working hours of more than one million workers based in its various factories, and that these facilities achieve an average of 93% compliance with 60-hour working week limits.

The report alleges that workers fell asleep during their 12 hour shifts while on the iPhone 6 production line, and some were made to work for 18 days in a row, with requests for days off denied.

“Panorama’s report implied that Apple isn’t improving working conditions. Let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth,” it said, before suggesting that information Apple shared with the BBC about company commitments on human rights were “clearly missing from their programme”.

“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,” the email continued.

The BBC report also alleged that it found illegal tin from mines in Indonesia where children were working could be making its way into the Apple 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,” Mr Williams said.

“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.”

Mr Williams also pointed to Apple’s work within the tin mining community to improve working conditions.

“We spearheaded the creation of an Indonesian Tin Working Group with other technology companies. Apple is pushing to find and implement a system that holds smelters accountable so we can influence artisanal mining in Indonesia. It could be an approach such as ”bagging and tagging“ legally mined material, which has been successful over time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are looking to drive similar results in Indonesia, which is the right thing to do.”

The Pegatron factory said it would carefully investigate the BBC’s claims before “all necessary actions” were taken.

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