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Originally published January 27, 2012 at 6:10 PM | Page modified January 28, 2012 at 11:36 AM

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Apple CEO vows no 'blind eye' to factories

Apple is "attacking problems" with conditions at its supply factories and is committed to educating workers about their rights, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in an email to his employees.

Bloomberg News

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SINGAPORE — Apple is "attacking problems" with conditions at its supply factories and is committed to educating workers about their rights, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has said in an email to his employees.

The letter, carried on the website, comes amid criticism of conditions at plants in China that help make Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads. Employees work excessive overtime, live in crowded dormitories and have died in factory explosions, The New York Times reported on its website Wednesday.

"We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues," Cook said in the email, which the website said was sent to all employees. "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."

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment.

More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the company's code of conduct every year since 2007, the newspaper reported, citing Apple's public reports. In some instances, suppliers improperly disposed of hazardous materials and falsified records, the newspaper reported, citing company reports and advocacy groups.

Shares of Apple, the world's most valuable technology company, rose to a record Wednesday after the company said first-quarter profit more than doubled to $13.1 billion because of holiday season demand for iPhones and iPads.

Apple's profit margins have widened at the expense of main supplier Foxconn Technology Group, which cut prices to retain orders for iPhones and iPads. At least 10 Foxconn workers committed suicide in 2010, prompting the Taipei-based company to increase wages, put up safety nets and improve worker welfare.

Foxconn, the world's largest contract manufacturer of electronics, said some members of its 1 million person workforce threatened to jump from a plant building earlier this month to protest an internal transfer of employees.

"We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain," Cook wrote. "Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are."

Pollution caused by suppliers making Apple products in China "greatly endangers" public health and safety, according to an August report by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. An explosion at a Shanghai supplier to Apple injured 61 workers after aluminum dust produced by polishing cases for iPads ignited, China Labor Watch said in December.

Earlier this month, Apple said it agreed to let outside monitors into its supply factories to monitor conditions.

"We are attacking problems aggressively with the help of the world's foremost authorities on safety, the environment, and fair labor," Cook wrote in the email. "It would be easy to look for problems in fewer places and report prettier results, but those wouldn't be the actions of a leader."

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