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CNN investigates Foxconn iPad factory conditions, Apple responds


A new report features a woman who works 60 hours per week assembling iPad components in China, though she has never seen a full iPad in person. In response, Apple said it works to protect "every worker" in its worldwide supply chain.

The report from CNN features a woman called "Miss Chen," whose name was changed to protect her identity. Though she works at a Foxconn factory assembling iPads, she is shown the fully assembled product for the first time in her life by the TV news network.

"Wow, I want it," the 18-year-old student from a village outside of Chongqing, China, said. She is said to labor more than 60 hours per week assembling components for the iPad.

"Chen" told the network that she took the job at Foxconn and was promised "great benefits and little overtime." But once she began working at the Foxconn factory, she claims she was forced into overtime regularly, and found out that only senior employees receive benefits and sick leave.

CNN reached out to Apple for comment on the story. The Cupertino, Calif., company issued the following statement:

"We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing products wherever Apple products are made. Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple."

For the interview, the employee was taken to what she said was the first restaurant she has eaten at since she began working at the Foxconn factory. Employees at Foxconn's mega-facilities, like the one in Chengdu where "Chen" is employed, frequently eat, sleep, work and live there.

Reporter Stan Grant was on location at the front gate of Foxconn's Chengdu plant, though he was not allowed to enter the facility. He was told by "Chen" that she does not feel Foxconn cares about her.

The CNN story is the latest recent report to attack Apple and its relationship with Foxconn for assembly of its products. Late last month, The New York Times published a pair of stories profiling Apple's overseas manufacturing operations, examining the "human costs" that go into the iPad and other devices.

An anonymous former Apple executive who spoke with the newspaper said that the company has known about labor abuses in overseas factories for years. But they said nothing has been done because "the system works for us."

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook responded to those claims with an e-mail calling them "patently false and offensive." The letter issued to employees noted that Apple will continue to scrutinize its supply chain and will inevitably find more issues, but said that the company will never turn a blind eye to problems. "On this you have my word," he said.

Last month, a number of Foxconn workers at a factory that produces Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console threatened mass suicide if working conditions and wages were not improved. The company eventually settled a dispute with the protesting workers.

Apple recently released its annual supplier responsibility report, revealing there were fewer cases of underage labor at its overseas partners in 2011, with no intentional underage hirings. A total of 229 audits were conducted throughout the supply chain in 2011, an 80 percent increase from 2010.

Apple also boasted in January that it became the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association. Apple's participation in the FLA means the company has agreed to have the association independently assess facilities in its supply chain and report detailed findings on its website.