Apple and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) announced Monday that they would join in an unprecedented investigation into the company's supply and manufacturing line in response to continued outcry over reported unfair working conditions, notably labor infractions in factories of Apple supplier Foxconn in southern China.
The FLA will independently assess practices along Apple's supply chain and report detailed findings on its website, said the organization in the release. Tuesday's announcement marks the first time a major technology corporation has joined the association as a Participating Company.
Participating companies agree to uphold the FLA's code of conduct, designed to enforce fair conditions for workers along the supply chain.
Apple's compliance with the FLA comes after weeks of news reports on the subject amid consumer concerns on reports that workers were being treated unfairly. For example, a global petition that Apple investiagte these claims, organized by change.org, gained 250,000 signatures in a week.
Apple indicated Monday that the FLA began the process of interviewing thousands of employees, inspecting manufacturing areas and dormitories, and doing extensive review of documents relating to employment.
Those violations allegedly practiced down the Apple supply chain were listed in Apple's audit report from January 2012, which included breaches in pay and benefits for workers, environmental waste and disposal violations, and unsafe machinery.
Apple also found instances of underage workers in five of its suppliers, and subsequently required these suppliers to encourage the young workers to return to school and add age-verification systems to their hiring process. Over 90 factories were found that had workers exceeding 60 hours of work per week, with only one day of rest. Evidence of anti-discrimination rule violation against workers who were pregnant or had Hepatitis B were also found, and Apple made these companies cease such activity.
One of the company's biggest suppliers, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, is at the center of the accusations of poor working conditions, specifically the suicide of 12 workers in Chinese Foxconn factories over the past three years.
Apple distinguished itself under Steve Jobs as a company that tightly guarded all aspects of production, especially concerning details about the company's inner workings, like supply chain.
However, that might all change under Cook's leadership. The high number of supply audits performed under Cook -- 229 last year, as opposed to 288 the previous three years combined -- has some speculating that Apple has significantly changed its policy concerning company transparency.
Apple's shares have not been negatively affected by Monday's announcement, rising to over $500 in morning trading. Reports have speculated that strong performance of Apple stock is due to iPhone 4S demand and investor optimism on the potential launch of a new iPad tablet.