Apple updates report on supplier working conditions

Apple is pressing ahead with its efforts to improve working conditions at the overseas factories that manufacture its products

Mike Daisey may have received his comeuppance, but Apple is pressing ahead with its efforts to improve working conditions at the overseas factories that manufacture its products.

As promised, Apple is now offering monthly updates to its Supplier Responsibility website, tracking efforts to reduce extreme overtime hours worked among employees of Apple’s manufacturing partners. The update was first noted by John Gruber at the Daring Fireball blog.

Those updates show improvement.

According to Apple, weekly data in January showed that the company’s suppliers had an 84 percent compliance rate with the 60-hour maximum workweek specified in Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct. In February, that compliance rate improved to 89 percent across 500,000 workers—and the average employee worked a 48-hour week.

“That's a substantial improvement over previous results, but we can do better,” Apple said on its website. “We will continue to share our progress by reporting this data on a monthly basis.”

Reducing excessive overtime at Apple suppliers “is a top priority” in 2012, the company said.

Apple has been under fire in recent months for practices at factories—particularly Foxconn-owned plants in China—that make its iPods, iPads, and other products. The public radio program This American Life helped stir the criticism in January with Daisey’s account of his visit to those factories—an account the show retracted on Friday, saying it contained “significant fabrications.” A series of New York Times stories, however, documented similar troubles independently of Daisey’s efforts.

In response, Apple has already published its annual Supplier Responsibility report detailing its findings about conditions at supplier factories. The company has also asked the Fair Labor Association to conduct an indepedent investigation of the plants of its final assembly suppliers. The first full report from the FLA should arrive very soon; Apple said in February that the association would begin posting its assessments online in March.

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Joel Mathis

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