Tim Cook 'Deeply Offended' by BBC Documentary on Apple Factory Conditions

Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is deeply offended by allegations that Apple permits the mistreatment of workers in its supplier factories and mines, reports The Telegraph. The accusations were levied by the BBC news program Panorama, which sent undercover reporters to work in Chinese factories and Indonesian mines. The BBC aired the documentary titled "Apple's Broken Promises" last night on its BBC One channel.

apples-broken-promises-bbc-one
Apple senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams relayed Tim Cook's message in an email sent to its UK staff. Cook and Williams both stated they 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 also implied in the email that Apple provided the BBC with pertinent facts regarding the company's commitment to its workers worldwide, but that information was not included in the documentary.

The BBC report claims that Chinese workers were forced to work long hours assembling Apple devices and denied requests for a day off, even after working 18 days in a row. The BBC also uncovered issues with off-hour work meetings, underage workers and other violations with dormitories and ID cards.

The BBC also investigated tin mines in Indonesia, where it found children mining the ore in dangerous conditions. The BBC claims this tin makes its way into Apple's supply chain without the company's knowledge.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

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76 months ago

truth hurts?

People like YOU are part of the problem.

People that say things like this don't care about the truth, they only care about slamming Apple. Apple is doing the most of any company, and openly addressing the issues. All other companies are mum about this, and the media doesn't attack any other manufacturer with the venom they attack Apple. The reason is clear - say 'Samsung employees have poor working conditions', people go.... so? next story. But say it about Apple, and people read the article and are all over it.
Score: 88 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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76 months ago
Yet any cell phone you buy that isn't Apple most likely has the same, or more likely - worse working conditions.

The difference is Apple is one of the very few companies doing something about it.


Edit: here's the official email:


UK Team,

As you know, Apple is dedicated to the advancement of human rights and equality around the world. We are honest about the challenges we face and we work hard to make sure that people who make our products are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Last night, the BBC's Panorama program called those values into question. Like many of you, Tim and I 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.

I'd like to give you facts and perspective, all of which we shared with the BBC in advance, but were clearly missing from their program.

Panorama showed some of the shocking conditions around tin mining in Indonesia. Apple has publicly stated that tin from Indonesia ends up in our products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines. Here are the facts:

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.
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.

Panorama also made claims about our commitment to working conditions in our factories. 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.

I want you to know that more than 1400 of your Apple coworkers are stationed in China to manage our manufacturing operations. They are in the factories constantly - talented engineers and managers who are also compassionate people, trained to speak up when they see safety risks or mistreatment. We also have a team of experts dedicated solely to driving compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct across our vast supply chain.

In 2014 alone, our Supplier Responsibility team completed 630 comprehensive, in-person audits deep into our supply chain. These audits include face-to-face interviews with workers, away from their managers, in their native language. Sometimes critics point to the discovery of problems as evidence that the process isn't working. The reality is that we find violations in every audit we have ever performed, no matter how sophisticated the company we're auditing. We find problems, we drive improvement, and then we raise the bar.

Panorama's report implied that Apple isn't improving working conditions. Let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. Here are just a few examples:

Several years ago, the vast majority of workers in our supply chain worked in excess of 60 hours, and 70+ hour workweeks were typical. After years of slow progress and industry excuses, Apple decided to attack the problem by tracking the weekly hours of over one million workers, driving corrective actions with our suppliers and publishing the results on our website monthly - something no other company had ever done. It takes substantial effort, and we have to weed out false reporting, but it's working. This year, our suppliers have achieved an average of 93% compliance with our 60-hour limit. We can still do better.

And we will.

Our auditors were the first to identify and crack down on a ring of unscrupulous labor brokers who were holding workers' passports and forcing them to pay exorbitant fees. To date, we have helped workers recoup $20 million in excessive payments like these.
We've gone far beyond auditing and corrective actions by creating educational programs for workers in the same facilities where they make our products. More than 750,000 people have taken advantage of these college-level courses and enrichment programs, and the feedback we get from students is inspiring

I will not dive into every issue raised by Panorama in this note, but you can rest assured that we take all allegations seriously, and we investigate every claim. 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.

If you'd like to learn more about our Supplier Responsibility program, I encourage you and our customers to visit our website at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.

Thanks for your time and your support.

Jeff

Score: 56 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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76 months ago
truth hurts?
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago

truth hurts?

Indeed it does.

Tim would've earned a lot of respect from me if he had instead said, "You know what, you're right. We're appalled by this too and we're going to get serious about this issue." He would've even earned a little respect if he had said, "You know what? It's not our problem, and we won't be so in-your-face about saying how ethical we are over the rest of the industry." Instead, he took the predictable path of corporate denial.

Fail. :apple:
Score: 47 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago
This is nothing but a hatchet job by the BBC. Very disappointing.

Anyone who follows the industry knows how seriously Apple take their responsibility for supply chain workers. I hope that Tim Cook responds directly to this and puts the record straight because, unfortunately, there are too many people who will just take all this nonsense as fact and assume the worst.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago
I've not really followed this too much, but I get that Apple uses Foxconn who have poor working conditions.

As a consumer, what annoys me is that, when paying a premium for a product, I'd like to think that the extra cash works its way down the line so that people are better paid (both within Apple and outside of it), materials are ethically sourced etc.

If I was paying £200 for a laptop, I wouldn't be surprised that workers were underpaid, the unit was badly made, the materials purchased from companies that also pay their workers badly etc. (which is why I don't buy cheap goods)

But Apple are amongst, or even the, most expensive computers and gadgets out there. It's such a shame that even paying through the nose for your computer doesn't guarantee an ehtical machine is what you recieve.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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