Tim Cook (One More Thing 001)

An undercover documentary released yesterday by the BBC about working conditions in Pegatron’s iPhone factories has reportedly sent CEO Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s executive team through the roof, The Telegraph reported Friday.

BBC’s investigative report makes fresh allegations about continued poor working conditions at the iPhone manufacturing facility on the outskirts of Shanghai. The documentary’s found poor treatment of workers after Apple’s stated several times that it’s cleaned up its act.

The full video of the BBC documentary surfaced on YouTube this morning though it’s probably going to get taken down soon so we’ve embedded it for your viewing pleasure.

The notion that Apple’s contract fabricator, Pegatron, is mistreating workers reportedly “deeply offended” both Apple CEO Tim Cook and Jeff Williams SVP of Operations.

In an email to around 5,000 staff across the UK, the two men wrote they were “deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way”.

“Panorama’s report implied that Apple isn’t improving working conditions,” Cook said. “Let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth.”

And here’s the unofficial YouTube version of the controversial documentary by BBC’s Panorama programme, titled ‘Apple’s Broken Promises’ and running 38 minutes and 40 seconds long.


Cook also complained that none of the “facts and perspective” the company provided to the producers made it into the documentary.

“We know of no other company doing as much as Apple does to ensure fair and safe working conditions, to discover and investigate problems, to fix and follow through when issues arise, and to provide transparency into the operations of our suppliers,” Williams said.

The 1,400 manufacturing workers Apple employs in China are “talented engineers and managers who are also compassionate people, trained to speak up when they see safety risks or mistreatment,” he continued.

Seen below: a scene from the documentary showing workers sleeping on the iPhone production line at the Pegatron facility.

BBC Pegatron plant workers sleeping

According to the documentary, the iPhone 6 production line is brutal. Some workers reportedly fell asleep during twelve-hour shifts and others were forced to work eighteen days in a row after repeatedly being denied requests for a day off.

While noting that Apple can still, and will, do better, Williams reiterated company data acknowledging that its suppliers have achieved an average of 93 percent compliance with the 60-hour workweek limit this year.

Responding to the issue of child labour in Indonesian tin mines, Williams acknowledged that tin from Indonesia does end up in Apple’s products, some of which “likely comes from illegal mines,” but underscored that Apple is pushing for a change because “the government is not addressing the issue, and there is widespread corruption in the undeveloped supply chain.”

Indonesian tin mines

Apple, he said, faces two choices: demand that its suppliers buy tin from smelters outside of Indonesia (“it would certainly shield us from criticism”) or do the right thing and push for changes in the country. “We chose the second path, which is to stay engaged and try to drive a collective solution,” Williams, who is pictured below, said.

It’s interesting that Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, who is among Apple’s staunchest critics, says that while BBC’s discoveries are startling and depressing, we should blame ourselves for supporting the dark side of today’s global economy.

“Some of the people who make the products you use every day have jobs and lives that you would consider appalling,” Blodget writes. “You know this. You just fortunately don’t have to think about it very often. You are also choosing to continue buying these products, even though you know what goes into them.”

jeff williams

9to5Mac has the full text of Williams’ letter to UK staff:

UK Team,

As you know, Apple is dedicated to the advancement of human rights and equality around the world. We are honest about the challenges we face and we work hard to make sure that people who make our products are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Last night, the BBC’s Panorama program called those values into question. Like many of you, Tim and I were deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way.

I’d like to give you facts and perspective, all of which we shared with the BBC in advance, but were clearly missing from their program.

Panorama showed some of the shocking conditions around tin mining in Indonesia. Apple has publicly stated that tin from Indonesia ends up in our products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines. Here are the facts:

Tens of thousands of artisanal miners are selling tin through many middlemen to the smelters who supply to component suppliers who sell to the world. The government is not addressing the issue, and there is widespread corruption in the undeveloped supply chain. Our team visited the same parts of Indonesia visited by the BBC, and of course we are appalled by what’s going on there.

Apple has two choices: We could make sure all of our suppliers buy tin from smelters outside of Indonesia, which would probably be the easiest thing for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism. But it would be the lazy and cowardly path, because it would do nothing to improve the situation for Indonesian workers or the environment since Apple consumes a tiny fraction of the tin mined there. We chose the second path, which is to stay engaged and try to drive a collective solution.

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.

Panorama also made claims about our commitment to working conditions in our factories. We know of no other company doing as much as Apple does to ensure fair and safe working conditions, to discover and investigate problems, to fix and follow through when issues arise, and to provide transparency into the operations of our suppliers.

I want you to know that more than 1400 of your Apple coworkers are stationed in China to manage our manufacturing operations. They are in the factories constantly — talented engineers and managers who are also compassionate people, trained to speak up when they see safety risks or mistreatment. We also have a team of experts dedicated solely to driving compliance with our Supplier Code of Conduct across our vast supply chain.

In 2014 alone, our Supplier Responsibility team completed 630 comprehensive, in-person audits deep into our supply chain. These audits include face-to-face interviews with workers, away from their managers, in their native language. Sometimes critics point to the discovery of problems as evidence that the process isn’t working. The reality is that we find violations in every audit we have ever performed, no matter how sophisticated the company we’re auditing. We find problems, we drive improvement, and then we raise the bar.

Panorama’s report implied that Apple isn’t improving working conditions. Let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. Here are just a few examples:

Several years ago, the vast majority of workers in our supply chain worked in excess of 60 hours, and 70+ hour workweeks were typical. After years of slow progress and industry excuses, Apple decided to attack the problem by tracking the weekly hours of over one million workers, driving corrective actions with our suppliers and publishing the results on our website monthly — something no other company had ever done. It takes substantial effort, and we have to weed out false reporting, but it’s working. This year, our suppliers have achieved an average of 93% compliance with our 60-hour limit. We can still do better. And we will.

Our auditors were the first to identify and crack down on a ring of unscrupulous labor brokers who were holding workers’ passports and forcing them to pay exorbitant fees. To date, we have helped workers recoup $20 million in excessive payments like these.

We’ve gone far beyond auditing and corrective actions by creating educational programs for workers in the same facilities where they make our products. More than 750,000 people have taken advantage of these college-level courses and enrichment programs, and the feedback we get from students is inspiring.

I will not dive into every issue raised by Panorama in this note, but you can rest assured that we take all allegations seriously, and we investigate every claim. We know there are a lot of issues out there, and our work is never done. We will not rest until every person in our supply chain is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

If you’d like to learn more about our Supplier Responsibility program, I encourage you and our customers to visit our website at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.

Thanks for your time and your support.


Our UK readers can watch ‘Panorama: Apple’s Broken Promises’ on BBC iPlayer.

What’s your position on this thorny issue?

Is the media frenzy over working conditions in Pegatron’s plants justified, do you think, or is Apple being repeatedly lambasted due to its sheer size and influence?

[The Telegraph]

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    I don’t think apple should use excuses of all the work they are doing to fix these issues, they should apologise first and improve the conditions so that documentaries like this don’t have to exist.

    • jp2002

      They are trying to point out the selective discrimination made by BBC. Why not accuse all electronic giants. There is samsung, intel, Qualcomm for a start.

      • The point is that they have the money and power to change things. I like – not love – the products of Apple, but I still can’t believe how on earth this is still possible in 2014/2015.

      • Joey_Z

        Apple probably has the money, but doesn’t have the power for sure. Do you really expect an electronics company to change politics and cure corruption on the other side of the Pacific?

      • Sinistry

        Corporations change politics and create corruption systematically so I’m tempted to believe they could wield influence in the other direction.

      • Joey_Z

        Not so much to the semi-planned semi-open economy. In addition, to just make the market even “vibrate” a little, you will need several companies together, not just Apple alone. Looking back at historical events, no entities on this side of the Pacific, even those who were hundred folds more powerful than Apple (read the government), had ever succeeded on that.

    • Apologising would imply that somehow Apple is at fault. The blame lies with the factories and the Chinese government and not Apple although Apple can help to make a difference but they’re not obligated to do so (although they probably will and are).

      • Laszlo Gaspar

        I see your point but I think they should care more than they have been, hopefully we will see things improve.

      • ck125

        Except of see huge companies didn’t use the people and pay them nearly nothing, we wouldn’t have these issues. And it’s not just an apple thing. But apples a big one

    • Antzboogie

      Exactly I agree.

  • organic

    At this point, Apples the richest company in the world. They can bring back all those jobs to North America and still be the richest company in the world. Though that would never happen because Apple would never get away with treating workers in North America the way they do in China. They are greedy corporate monsters and they don’t really give a sh*t about worker rights in the end. Nor do they care about where the material comes from for they’re products or even who gets hurt in the process, they will continue to create they’re products in the cheapest horrific conditions possible (like all corporations). For as long as they can get away with it, they’ll do it. Until we demand it to stop there will be no change. We could just stop buying they’re products in the end but I’m sure we’ll all see flying pigs before that ever happens. Keep it up fanboys.

    • Nuno Xavier

      You sir are too blind to see that what we consider abuse of work, in china is simple work to put bread on the table. Does it suck? YES. What happens if they don’t work, and fight for their rights? They’ll die starving.
      It’s not a fanboy thing, it’s common practice in asian countries, just open your eyes and see, you’ll be amazed where you shiny phone/watch/socks were made, and then look for it’s company.
      Apple does what they think it’s really necessary, not what is blindly right, and moving production to North America, would only result in increasing the product’s prices.

      • Exactly. Moving production to the U.S. assuming it’s possible to produce the amount of iPhones necessary would not only result in higher iPhone prices it would result in completely ignoring the problems in China. It’s effectively saying “This is bad so from now on all production will be in the US” the problem would still be there…

      • George

        And doing nothing about their work conditions shows what exactly?

      • They aren’t doing nothing they’re doing something. The something is having little effect though. The only way things will change is if the technology sector rallies together. Apple can’t fix thing on their own even with their billions of dollars so people need to stop acting like Apple can snap their fingers and then everything’s fixed…

      • George

        That is where you are wrong, apple threw billions to some shitty head phone company and has done shit with it, using a couple million to ensure safe environments and a way to make these workers not hate their life can easily be fixed with money.

      • Money can’t fix everything…

      • George

        I understand you’re a delusional fan boy but do you even know how silly you sound?

      • Does this mean you’re implying that money can solve everything? If so why is there still so much poverty and disease in this world? There are some problems money alone can’t fix and the work conditions in Chinese factories are one of these problems…

      • George

        Money cannot solve everything, money can solve this problem. Apple can solve this problem.

      • How can money solve this problem? Apple can throw as much money at the factories (which they don’t own by the way) as they want but there’s no guarantee things will change…

      • Please, stop pretending to be a numbskull. They could easily build their very own factory like Samsung, hire thousands of workers with shifts and good work environment, like we have here in North American oil and gas companies, and forget about these other factories.

        But instead, they only care to maximize profit regardless of the human costs.

      • If Apple were to build their own factories this would be completely ignoring the problem at hand since workers would still work at Foxconn and Pegatron and the conditions would likely be exactly the same. Foxconn and Pegatron don’t just have Apple as their client they have other clients too…

      • No it won’t be ignoring it. It would be showing they actually care enough to stop supporting the terrible working conditions of Foxconn and Pegatron. As big as Apple is, those other two would be forced to take the problem seriously, or loose more giant clients until they go out of business. Also, the pressure from reporters like BBC would then switch from Apple to other tech giants who still support the terrible working conditions of Foxconn and Pegatron.

      • kled23

        a company don’t become the richest company in the world with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets without charging many times fold prices for their products, even if they move the production to US and charge the same price, they will still make profit but only their profit margin will decrease. phones like one plus one has busted the myth that a phone costs so much to manufacture.

      • kled23

        @organic has a point, apple is the richest company in the world and its consumer products are used worldwide, if every iphone manufactured is tied to the agony of thousands of workers, then we should have some ethics and question the company which produces products for us. Working condtions are bad in china for sure, but the company in question here is Apple and having so much assets put them in a higher responsibility for their workers sake at the least, they need not worry abt the rest,no one’s gonna make war on China to improve their conditions, but Apple can be pressurized to improve the condition of the employees that makes their very basic products that runs the company, infact other multinational companies like samsung, huawei too should be checked if necessary.
        ur last point is full of ignorance,,
        a company don’t become the richest company in the world with hundreds of
        billions of dollars in assets without charging many times fold prices
        for their products, even if they move the production to US and charge
        the same price, they will still make profit but only their profit margin
        will decrease. phones like one plus one has busted the myth that a
        phone costs so much to manufacture.

    • Joey_Z

      Imagine this, you are the owner of a company in China. You do contracted works by making components for Apple. One day Apple comes in to your office and tell you, “hey, use this supplier instead of the one you are using, and pay more to your employees otherwise we will contract someone else.” Knowing that you are treating your employees better than anyone else in China, will you do as Apple say OR tell Apple to go back home because Apple doesn’t own your company so can’t manage your company?

    • Tommy Gumbs

      You do realize it is more expensive to bring and have these jobs in America right? You do realize that the price of products would increase dramatically correct? You do realize to remain as competitive as you can, and with your competitors, you have to keep prices low right? I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong, but there more to fixing the problem than saying bring jobs back home because that in itself also creates more problems.

    • Onny Yeung

      It’s not apple man. It’s china. Apple is only partner with the factories in china. That’s how all the factories in china treat their workers. That how it is. I lived in china for 13 years so I know how it is there. People are blaming apple is because apple is the wealthiest company on earth.

    • Onny Yeung

      Another reason how factories treat their worker the way they do, it’s because they can. And why hey can in china ? And not in the US? It’s because the Chinese government don’t care and they are not doing anything about it and they can’t do anything about it. So why are you guys expect apple to do things that the Chinese government even do?

  • Jason Baroni

    At what point this is only Apple’s fault? Why no one asks about the chinese fail government?

  • Itzkhaoz

    Watching this on my new iPhone 😀

  • Joey_Z

    BTW, taking nap at work after lunch is very common in China. It’s culture, not a sign of mis-treated workers, and definitely far away from BBC’s portrait of slavery. Except international companies located in Beijing and Shanghai that follow the Western working habit, all other private companies and government agencies do this. I guarantee you if you walk into some offices from 12:30 to 1:30 pm, you usually find only 1 person awake.

  • Burge

    This is not just Apple it’s all the company’s that use this facility. It’s just Apple who is the biggest user of the company so the blame goes to them. That in its self is wrong. And if Apple feel the need to defend the working practices of its suppliers than they are more aware of this then they let on. Apple can only do so much it’s either use the company or find another company that your happy with. But they can not because it’s all done on a Profitmargin.

  • Dan

    Unfortunately this goes on in pretty much every company that outsources their work.
    Anybody who thinks Apple (or other companies) doesn’t know that this is going on is naive or simply stupid.

  • Fevostone

    To impove the work for the employees they would need to move the work to a country that as better human rights and better living. These people don’t have to work in these conditions. All this video does for me is make me feel really lucky where I live and what I’ve got.

  • David Cawthorne

    There goes any chance of BBC iPlayer ending up on Apple TV!

  • ck125

    Deeply offended yet won’t do a thing about it.

  • Antzboogie

    Apple bring the jobs to America and let’s grow together. Let’s just get out of China and Capitalism already.

    • George

      They would never, they only care about profit. If they cared about doing good they wouldn’t sell their products for a shit ton and use slaves to make their products every year.

  • George

    This is coming from the company that has had people commit suicide because they didn’t want to be an islave in those shitty factories.

  • Onny Yeung

    it’s not apple. It’s china. All factories in china are like that.

    • Sinistry

      Then they shouldn’t be doing business with China.

  • john

    Give me a break! Apple cares more about that fact that Tim cook likes to fuk guys in the ass then their employees’ working conditions. It’s a greedy corp like any other that’s full of shit to the max! I only hope they choke on it soon…

  • dysphasi

    It would have been a gutsier move and better demonstrated their will to spearhead improvements in working conditions had they accepted and provided the interview with the BBC correspondent.

    That they didn’t provide a face-to-face does lend to greater speculation. It certainly seems surprising that they would express outrage at the report, given that they chose not to put their own case forward.