Apple Inc. (AAPL) Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visited Foxconn Technology Group’s newly built manufacturing facility for the iPhone in Zhengzhou, China, as the U.S. company seeks to improve working conditions.
The iPhone production line is at the new Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, which employs 120,000 people, Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman, said in an e-mail today. She didn’t provide other details on Cook’s visit or say how much longer he’ll be in China after having held high-level talks in Beijing earlier this week.
Apple, which contracts Foxconn to make its iPhones and iPads, became the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association in January, opening up suppliers’ factories to inspections by the Washington-based group after complaints by human rights organizations. The group found “tons of issues,” while also seeing “dramatic” improvements, FLA Chief Executive Officer Auret van Heerden said last month.
“Apple has had a string of negative publicity this year with Foxconn factory issues,” said Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting Ltd., a Beijing-based market research firm. “Apple is trying to demonstrate how seriously they take these issues, and how strong their commitment is to China.”
Cupertino, California-based Apple has been criticized by organizations including China Labor Watch for conditions at its suppliers, and the company has found infractions including excessive overtime and environmental violations. It didn’t specify which companies breached its supplier code of conduct.
Foxconn, founded by Chairman Terry Gou in 1974, raised the base pay for junior workers by as much as 25 percent last month and said its wages exceed government mandates.
Cook’s trip to Zhengzhou followed a meeting with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong on March 26 and with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang on March 27. Apple’s Wu said earlier those meetings were “great,” without providing details on their content.
Vice Premier Li told Cook China will strengthen intellectual property rights, according to the official Xinhua news agency. He also told Cook multinational companies should pay more attention to caring for workers and share development opportunities with the Chinese side, Xinhua reported.
Cook told Li Apple “will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with the Chinese side and conduct business in a law- abiding and honest manner,” Xinhua reported.
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