Apple CEO Tim Cook whilst in China has visited an iPhone production plant in Zhengzhou run by Foxxconn Technology Group which has been widely criticized for it’s poor working conditions.
In 2010, 13 workers of one plant committed suicide with claims of military style working conditions where staff were forced to work long hours for next to no pay. In 2011, Foxconn (which assembles most of Apple’s iPhones & iPads) was again under fire.. literally, as a fire at a plant resulted in the deaths of 4 workers.
The Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou Technology Park employs around 120,000 staff and is responsible for a large portion of Apple’s iPhone production line.
In January, Apple became the first tech company to sign up to the Fair Labor Association and in doing so, opened up it’s suppliers’ gates for inspection after complaints came to light from several human rights organisations.
Tim Cook at the time said that a Fair Labor Association auditor would be given “unprecedented access” to assess working conditions at all of Apple’s suppliers factories (including Foxconn).
Mark Natkin, MD of a Beijing-based market research firm said:
“Apple has had a string of negative publicity this year with Foxconn factory issues”
“Apple is trying to demonstrate how seriously they take these issues, and how strong their commitment is to China”
Despite China being such an integral cog in the Apple system in terms of manufacturing and a potential market, over the last year, they have started loosing the smartphone battle there to top rivals Samsung.
As well as visiting Zhengzhou Technology Park, Tim Cook’s itinery also included a quick chat with vice premier Li Keqiang (Beijing’s mayor) and a visit to an Apple store in the Capital.
Xinhua news agency reported that Tim Cook had told vice premier Li Keqiang that Apple would:
“strengthen comprehensive cooperation with the Chinese side and conduct business in a law-abiding and honest manner”
In response to Li telling Cook that China would strengthen intellectual property rights.