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Following protests, Apple requests Foxconn factory inspections

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Apple announced today that the Fair Labor Association (FLA) has begun to investigate a number of Chinese factories where many of Apple’s popular devices are assembled. The “special voluntary audits,” initiated at Apple’s request, will include close examination of working conditions at Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, the company said. Audits of Apple’s supply chain factories follow protests against the iPhone- and iPad-maker, which took place at Apple Stores, in cities around the world, late last week.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a statement. “The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”

Apple came under intense scrutiny last month after The New York Times published an investigative article, which revealed that a number of Foxconn workers had died as a result of unsafe working conditions. The Cupertino, California-based company responded by joining the FLA, making it the first electronics company to do so. Apple says that Foxconn and its other suppliers, including Quanta and Pegatron, have offered “unrestricted access” to FLA investigators, who “will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management.” Worker dormitories and manufacturing areas will also be inspected.

Since 2006, Apple has conducted its own annual audits of the factories where its popular electronics are assembled. Apple recently launched a “Supplier Responsibility” page on its website, where concerned consumers can peruse the findings from more than 500 factory audits conducted over the last few years. The addition of the third-party FLA audits add further credence to Apple’s stated commitment to proper working conditions in its supply chain.

The FLA inspections will cover factories where more than 90 percent of Apple’s products are assembled, the company said. The FLA has already begun its Foxconn inspections, and will post its initial findings to its website in “early March.” FLA reports on Quanta and Pegatron are due later this spring.

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