updated 04:20 pm EST, Tue February 14, 2012
Insists Apple cares 'about every worker'
Apple "takes working conditions very seriously," according to CEO Tim Cook. The executive is currently speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, and began his presentation by defending the company's attitude toward suppliers. Critics and activists have brought the company to task for using suppliers that rely on low high wages, extreme hours, questionable safety, and sometimes underage labor.
Cook reiterated several points, such as its use of a code of conduct for suppliers, and the free education it offers to those companies' employees. "You can read the details on problems we're looking to fix on our website, but I can tell you that no one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple," Cook said during the speech. "We are constantly auditing facilities going deep into the supply chain, looking for problems, finding problems and fixing problems. We report everything because we believe transparency is so very important in this area. I am so incredibly proud of the work that our teams are doing in this area. They focus on the most difficult problems and they stay with them until they fix them. They are truly a model for the industry.
"We think the use of underaged labor is abhorrent. It's extremely rare in our supply chain, but our top priority is to eliminate it totally. We've done that with our final assembly and we're now working with vendors farther down in the supply chain. If we find a supplier that intentionally hires underage labor, it's a firing offense.
"We don't let anyone cut corners on safety. If there is a problem on safety, we seek out the foremost experts and set a new standard and apply that to the entire supply chain. We focus on the details. If there is a fire extinguisher missing from a cafeteria, that facility doesn't pass inspection until that fire extinguisher is in place.
"We are continuing to focus on problems endemic to our industry like excessive overtime. Our code of conduct has a cap of 60 hours per workweek. We have consistently found violations of this code over the course of our time, so at the beginning of this year we announced that we are determined to drive widespread change. We have begun to manage working hour at a very micro basis.
"In January, we collected weekly data on over a half million workers in our supply chain. We had 84 percent compliance."
Cook also dealt with the issue of a pre-paid iPhone, something analysts have long expected, given the size of pre-paid cellular markets internationally. The CEO insisted that people want "the best product," not a cheaper version of it, and that Apple is focused on that. He suggested in fact that as important as pre-paid markets are, they may not stay that way. China Unicom has supposedly seen a high conversion rate of pre-paid customers into post-paid subscribers.