Following a BBC Documentary showing exhausted workers in China, Apple’s Tim Cook answers personally.
Firstly, in the interest of full-disclosure, I do hold Apple stock. I don’t, however think this precludes me for commenting on these stories any more than my living in China does. I will, however, mention that sleeping and repeatedly napping is firmly entrenched in Chinese culture. I’ve observed people who have just woken, napping on a subway right after rising for the day. Students of mine who simply learned English four hours a day napping for five minutes between classes. I’ve also seen horrible working conditions throughout the country. I don’t have an opinion.
Apple doesn’t run its factories in China but those factories are used to make the company’s products. There is no question that a number of these assembly factories are breaking Apple’s rules, but no one can say with certainty that Apple isn’t trying and that is what the company continues to maintain.
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I’m no more a fan of endangering workers than you are of paying $2000 for an iPhone 6. So rather than discussing the documentary which if not embedded here, is readily available elsewhere, let’s turn to Mr. Cook’s “deep offense” with the “Panorama” documentary.
At the request of Tim Cook, Jeff Williams, Apple senior vice president of operations, sent and email to roughly 5000 Apple employees throughout the UK stating that each 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.”
Working conditions at Apple: Additional excerpts from the email include:
Williams spoke to 93% compliance with the 60-hour work week saying, “We can still do better. And we will.” Adding that the roughly 1,400 workers in China are “talented engineers and managers who are also compassionate people, trained to speak up when they see safety risks or mistreatment.”
“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,” he said.
The “Panorama” documentary included children working in tin mines in Indonesia to which Williams answered:
“Apple has publicly stated that tin from Indonesia ends up in our products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines,” Williams countered.
“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.”