A top Chinese official has criticized foreign companies for not paying enough attention to the interests of workers. The guilt trip was laid down by China’s vice premier in a recent meeting with Apple chief executive officer, Tim Cook.
Cook is in China this week to investigate recent allegations that facilities where some of Apple’s products are made suffer from insufferable working conditions. Last month reports from Western media indicated that Chinese workers employed at the country’s Foxconn facilities, which produce Apple products like the iPad (but also devices from other major tech firms) were being underpaid and overworked.
One worker even went so far as to suggest that employees were treated like “animals”.
Those allegations didn’t exactly gel with Apple’s squeaky-clean reputation. Cook’s visit is part of a wider campaign being launched by the company to improve conditions at the facilities where its products are made. The company has said that it will be paying for independent inspectors to investigate how workers are treated at these facilities.
Cook not only toured plant facilities (specifically the Zhengzhou Technology Park were 120,000 people work), but also met with top Chinese officials. Perhaps the most notable event during that meeting was a statement made by China’s vice premier, Li Keqiang, who reportedly told Cook that foreign firms need to “pay more attention to caring for workers”.
Apple hasn’t commented on that statement and, as expected, is focusing on the positives coming out of their CEO’s tour. In a statement, the company said Cook’s meetings with officials were “great” and that he was able to find time to visit with production line workers.
“China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth here,” Apple said.
It’s not yet known exactly what else was said in meetings between Cook and Chinese officials, although reports indicate that counterfeiting — a major problem in China — was a point of discussion.
It isn’t clear how much time each side spent planning future strategies for improving working conditions at Foxconn facilities.