Apple CEO Tim Cook in a statement said that Apple has asked the FLA to independently assess labor practices at its suppliers because the company supports the right to a safe and fair work environment.
"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," said Cook.
Apple's shift toward supporting greater transparency at its suppliers also represents an unusual step for a company that goes to great lengths to conceal unannounced products and to limit employee communication with unapproved persons.
The FLA will interview thousands of workers making Apple products about the working and living conditions at Apple's suppliers, with a focus on issues related to health, safety, compensation, working hours, and communication with management.
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In the coming months, additional inspections are scheduled to occur at Quanta and Pegatron. At the conclusion of those inspections, Apple says that the facilities responsible for 90% of its products will have been reviewed.
Conditions at Apple's suppliers began receiving widespread attention following a series of suicides at Foxconn plants in 2010 and two factory explosions in 2011, one at a Foxconn facility and one at a Pegatron facility, that resulted in at least three deaths and several dozen injuries.
A group called Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) has released three reports on Apple's suppliers. Its September 2011 report cites a long list of problems, including withheld wages, forced and unpaid overtime, exposure to harmful chemicals, and uncaring management.
Despite the moral outrage and corporate damage control accompanying such revelations, prominent economists like Jeffrey D. Sachs of Harvard and Paul Krugman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have argued that low-wage manufacturing is a necessary, albeit painful, step toward modernization for developing countries.
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