Apple CEO Tim Cook 'deeply offended' by BBC report of exhausted Chinese factory workers and children working in brutal conditions

Chief executive Tim Cook 'deeply offended' by shocking allegations of inhumane working conditions as part of Apple's supply chain

Maria Tadeo@mariatad
Friday 19 December 2014 15:00

Apple CEO Tim Cook says is "deeply offended" by BBC claims that Chinese workers at factories producing the iPhone 6 are mistreated and forced to work in poor conditions.

Apple's Senior Vice-President of Operations, Jeff Williams, sent out an email to its 5,000 staff members in the UK responding to an undercover report by the BBC, saying that both himself and chief executive Tim Cook were “deeply offended” by the shocking claims.

The BBC's flagship current affairs show, Panorama, filmed exhausted factory workers as they fell asleep during 12-hour shifts on an iPhone 6 production line at the Pegatron factories near Shanghai and accused Apple of routinely breaking its pledge to protect employees from inhumane labour conditions.

In an internal email first reported by The Daily Telegraph, Williams said Cook was “deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain” or mislead customers.

Williams went on to say the allegations “could (not) be further from the truth” and insisted they provided information to the BBC regarding working conditions but “these were clearly missing” from the programme.

The report, titled “Apple: Broken Promises, also showed footage of young working in dangerous conditions while digging tin ore out by hand in the Indonesian island of Bangka.

One of them was a 12-year-old boy named Rainto seen working with his father at the bottom of a 70-foot cliff of sand. According to Panorama, gangs collect tin from illegal mines and sell them to smelters, including one listed as an Apple supplier.

In the memo, Williams conceded tin from Indonesia ends up in Apple products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines, but insisted the company has taken action to hold smelters accountable.

”We spearheaded the creation of an Indonesian Tin Working Group with other technology companies. Apple is pushing to find and implement a system that holds smelters accountable so we can influence artisanal mining in Indonesia.

“It could be an approach such as “bagging and tagging” legally mined material, which has been successful over time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are looking to drive similar results in Indonesia, which is the right thing to do,” he added.

Meanwhile, Apple supplier Pegatron said it was looking into Panorama’s findings.

“Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities. We set very high standards, conduct rigorous training for managers and workers, and have external auditors regularly visiting our facilities to find areas for improvement,” it said.

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