Earlier this week, the BBC aired an hourlong documentary program on conditions for workers in factories assembling Apple products in China, and conditions in tin mines in Indonesia that supply Apple. Factory footage showed iPhone assemblers begging for time off and dozing off on the assembly line, and an illegal tin mine in Indonesia that is purportedly part of Apple’s supply chain.
In a letter sent to UK-based employee of Apple who might have seen the documentary, Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, explained that both he and CEO Tim Cook were “deeply offended” by the accusation that Apple isn’t doing enough to improve conditions for everyone along its supply line. In the letter, Williams said that Apple shared its perspective on these issues with the BBC, but all of that information was “clearly missing from their program.”
In the hidden-camera footage, employees assembling the iPhone 6 were falling asleep at their stations after apparently working 12-hour shifts with no days off. Even the undercover reporter wearing the hidden camera asked for a day off and the request was turned down. Apple counters that its own audits show that suppliers are keeping their workers’ hours down to 60 or less per week 93% of the time, and the company closely monitors how the companies it contracts with to assemble products treat their employees.
The situation with the tin mine is more complex. Apple freely acknowledges that it does buy tin from Indonesia that may have originated in mines that are illegal and that employ children in poor conditions, as the BBC program showed. However, Apple counters, its choices are either to keep sourcing tin from Indonesia and work to improve conditions there along with other technology companies, or to source from other countries and ignore the issues with “artisanal mines” in Indonesia.
Apple goes to war with the BBC [Telegraph]
Read: Apple’s letter to UK staff over Chinese factory conditions [Telegraph]