Apple CEO Tim Cook visits Foxconn plant in China to check up on working conditions

It seems that after all the intense discussion of working conditions in China at plants used by Apple and other electronics companies to manufacture their products, Apple CEO Tim Cook is getting to the bottom of the situation himself.

According to a story from Bloomberg, Apple’s head honcho visited China and personally toured the brand new Foxconn facility located in Zhenzhou. Foxconn hasn’t said just what Cook will be doing in China or how long he’ll be there, but the two companies did hand out some press photos that show Cook in the plant.

Apple has been under considerable scrutiny of late because of alleged working conditions in overseas plants like the newly built Zhenzhou plant, which intends to build devices in Apple’s iPhone line. A New York Times report detailing labor conditions that would be illegal in the U.S. made a lot of people aware of supposed problems in plants used by Apple. In response, Foxconn has raised wages for many workers and made other changes.

Even more recently, however, the account of one-man show performer Mike Daisey, in which he claimed to have met underage workers and people injured while creating iPads during his visit to a Foxconn plant in China, was revealed to be at least partially untrue by National Public Radio show This American Life. Daisey has been extremely vocal in bringing issues about Apple’s supply chain to light; many of the things he mentions in his one-man show have actually happened (most of his alleged encounters are drawn from real news stories). It’s a complex issue.

For his part, Cook denied allegations stemming from the New York Times piece, and Apple has actually conducted its own internal audits of its manufacturing partners. However, the backlash caused Foxconn to join the Fair Labor Association, an industry group that has launched its own audit of Foxconn. That investigation has found “tons of issues,” but is also reporting “dramatic” improvement, according to the Bloomberg story. However, even that investigative team – created by an industry group that receives funding from its members, such as Apple – has received scrutiny and criticism.

As Bloomberg reports, Cook also has met with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong and Chinese Vice Premier Li Kegiang. The official Xinhua news agency noted that the vice premier told Cook that companies such as Apple need to devote more attention to caring for workers. According to Xinhua, Cook told the vice premier that Apple intends to “strengthen comprehensive cooperation with the Chinese side and conduct business in a law-abiding and honest manner.”

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