Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is “deeply offended” by allegations in a new BBC documentary regarding Apple’s handling of workers at its Chinese suppliers, The Telegraph reports. In a BBC investigative report which aired last night, BBC’s Panorama revealed poor treatment of workers and a breach of working hour standards, after sending undercover reporters into factories run by Apple supplier Pegatron located on the outskirts of Shanghai.
This morning, Apple Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams sent out an e-mail to around 5,000 UK staffers, saying that both he and Apple CEO Tim Cook 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,” and that in terms of accusations that Apple isn’t improving working conditions, “nothing could be further from the truth.” Williams alleges that Apple had shared “facts and perspective” regarding its commitment to human rights with the BBC, and that these details 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.
In response to the BBC’s report that workers were falling asleep during extremely long shifts and being required to work numerous days while repeatedly being denied requests for time off, Williams responded that Apple has been tracking the weekly hours of “over one million workers” in its various manufacturing partners and that all of its suppliers are at an average of 93 percent compliance with Apple’s 60-hour work week limit. Williams conceded that the company can do better, but maintains its commitment to doing so.
The BBC documentary also claimed that it had found cases of child workers and dangerous working conditions in the mines on the Indonesian island of Bangka, where Apple sources its tin supply from. Williams responded to this in much the same way as Apple’s original statement, noting that “Apple has publicly stated that tin from Indonesia ends up in our products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines,” but that the situation is complex and the company is actively working to improve the situation in that country, believing that remaining engaged is the more responsible course of action, rather than sourcing tin from elsewhere. Since Apple consumes a relatively small portion of the tin mined in Indonesia, Williams stated that simply sourcing tin from elsewhere would “do nothing to improve the situation for Indonesian workers.”
In the internal e-mail, Wiliams assured staff that despite Apple’s position on the documentary itself, the company is taking all of the allegations seriously and plans to investigate all of the claims that have been made, acknowledging that the company is aware that there are “a lot of issues out there” and that Apple “will not rest until every person in our supply chain is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”