Apple Tim Cook China Visit Seen as Ending Foxconn Controversy?

  on March 29 2012 7:23 PM
Handout photo shows Apple CEO Cook talking to employees as he visits the iPhone production line at the new Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park in Henan
Handout photo shows Apple CEO Cook talking to employees as he visits the iPhone production line at the new Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park in Henan Reuters

Apple is facing increasingly more criticism regarding poor working conditions at its supplier Foxconn's Chinese factories. In an effort to improve working conditions, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Foxconn Technology Group's new manufacturing facility for the iPhone in Zhengzhou, China.

Strengthening Ties with the Chinese Government

According to experts, Cook's meetings with Beijing's mayor, with vice premier Li Kegiang, and his visit to the Foxconn factory are meant to strengthen ties with the Chinese government, as China has become essential to Apple's manufacturing and product sales.

The new Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, which employs 120,000 workers, hosts the iPhone production line, said Beijing-based Apple spokesperson Carolyn Wu, in an email to Bloomberg Business Week. Wu did not provide further details on Cook's visit, nor said how long his visit to China will be.

FLA Found 'Tons of Issues', but also 'Dramatic' Improvements

In January, after several complaints from human rights organizations, Apple became the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA), subjecting suppliers' factories to inspections by the Association. Last month, FLA CEO Auret van Heerden reported that the group found tons of issues, but also noticed dramatic improvements.

Apple has been severely criticized lately by organizations including China Labor Watch for working condition at its suppliers' factories, and the company also acknowledged that it has found several issues, including excessive overtime and environmental violations. It did not, however, specify which suppliers failed to comply with its supplier code of conduct.

Strong Commitment to China

Apple has had a string of negative publicity this year with Foxconn factory issues, reportedly Marbridge Consulting Ltd. Managing director Mark Natkin. Apple is trying to demonstrate how seriously they take these issues, and how strong their commitment is to China, added the Beijing-based market research firm director.

Last month, in an effort to address issues with working conditions, Foxconn raised the base pay for junior workers by 25 percent, stating that its wages exceed government mandates.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, Cook met with vice premier Li Kegiang on March 27, and Li pledged that China will strengthen intellectual property rights, but multinational companies should be more involved in caring for workers and sharing development opportunities with China. Cook assured Li that Apple will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with the Chinese side and conduct business in a law-abiding and honest manner, reported Xinhua.

(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Surojit Chatterjee)

Join the Discussion