Tim Cook Responds to "In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad"

Following, New York Times' detailed report titled "In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad," about the harsh conditions of working in the factories of an Apple parts supplier or Apple product manufacturer:"The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes […]

Foxconn employeeFollowing, New York Times' detailed report titled "In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad," about the harsh conditions of working in the factories of an Apple parts supplier or Apple product manufacturer:

"The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day."

The article continues;

"Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose."

Foxconn, Chengdu factory explosion
An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads. Color China Photo, via Associated Press

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple's products, and the company's suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records… Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays.

"Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost," said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple's most important manufacturing partners. Mr. Li, who is suing Foxconn over his dismissal, helped manage the Chengdu factory where the explosion occurred.

"Workers' welfare has nothing to do with their interests," he said.

A few former Apple executives with knowledge of Apple's supplier responsibility group weighed in:

"You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards. And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China."

"The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper," said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. And then they'll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.

The NYT report prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook, to sent out a lengthy letter to all of his employees -- here is an excerpt:

"Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we've made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people."

"We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment. As you know, more than a million people have been trained by our program."

"We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do -- and never have done -- is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at apple.com/supplierresponsibility."

Cooks' full e-mail is embedded below: