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Apple to Have Labor Group Inspect Its Factories in China

A Foxconn worker walks past a factory belonging to affiliate Foxconn Premier Image Technology (China) Ltd in Foshan in Guangdong province, southern China November 19, 2010.

Apple will have a non profit labor group conduct inspections of its controversial production facility in China.

A statement issued by Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company had agreed to let the D.C.-based Fair Labor Association (FLA) monitor conditions at the factories of its suppliers, including controversial Foxconn plants in southern China.

The announcement added, "As part of its independent assessment, the FLA will interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management."

The Foxconn factories have come under scrutiny because of reports of hard working conditions and high suicide rates. Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that assembles most of Apple's products, denies that such conditions exist.

The company statement said the inspections began Monday with interviews of thousands of employees and inspections of manufacturing areas and dormitories.

Following the allegations, one U.S. citizen, Mark Shields, started a petition drive calling for better working conditions at the factories, collecting almost a quarter of a million signatures. Shields told VOA Monday that Apple's announcement is a "great first step" but he said he would like a worker protection strategy announced for new Apple products.

Shields told VOA that as an Apple consumer, he was concerned about reports of how Apple products were made in Chinese factories where working conditions were so hard and suicide rates were so high that Foxconn “had to hang nets off of the sides of the buildings to prevent people from killing themselves.”

Shields calls Apple’s announcement as a “great first step”, but would like a worker protection strategy announced for new Apple products.

VOA’s attempts to contact Apple for a reaction to Shield’s petition went unanswered.