Apple says Fair Labor Association checking Foxconn units in China

Apple said the Fair Labor Association will conduct special voluntary audits of Apple’s final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China, at Apple’s request.

The FLA conducts independent monitoring and verification to ensure that the FLA’s Workplace Standards are upheld wherever FLA company products are made.

A team of labor rights experts led by FLA president Auret van Heerden began the first inspections Monday morning at the facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City, the maker of iPhone and iPad tablets said.

“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,” Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO said.

“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,” he added.

The move is a response to public criticism of the conditions under which employees of Foxconn work, making iPads and iPhones.

Foxconn is the World’s largest electronics contract manufacturer and makes devices for a large number of prominent brands in the West, including Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. The manufacturer has been in the eye of a storm after suicides were reported among its employees in China.

As part of its independent assessment, the FLA’s team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment.

“Apple’s suppliers have pledged full cooperation with the FLA, offering unrestricted access to their operations. The FLA’s findings and recommendations from the first assessments will be posted in early March on its website,

“Similar inspections will be conducted at Quanta and Pegatron facilities later this Spring, and when completed, the FLA’s assessment will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled,” Apple said.

It said it has audited every final assembly factory in its supply chain each year since 2006, including more than 40 audits of Foxconn manufacturing and final assembly facilities.

In January, Apple became the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association.

Just a few days ago, Foxconn Technology said it had resolved a pay dispute with scores of workers at one of its factories after some workers threatened to commit suicide in January this year.

In 2010, there was a wave of suicides by distraught workers at several of Foxconn’s Chinese factories, allegedly due to long hours and harsh working conditions and little pay. It has about 32,000 employees at its central campus in the city of Wuhan.