SHANGHAI, China – Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) is investigating claims of poor working conditions at a Chinese iPod factory, the company said Friday, vowing not to tolerate any labor violations.
The company was responding to a report by a British newspaper, the Mail on Sunday, that alleged workers at an unnamed iPod factory were paid as little as $50 to work 15-hour shifts making the devices.
The Mail's report did not provide many details about the location or ownership of the factory, but its allegations provoked a vigorous response from Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif.
"Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible," said a statement from Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman.
"We are currently investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China. We do not tolerate any violations of our supplier code of conduct," it said.
Apple's iconic iPod players are made abroad, mainly in China. The company has sold more than 50 million iPods since its debut in 2001.
Staff at Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that reportedly assembles the iPods and products of many other major manufacturers in China, refused comment when contacted Friday at the company's China headquarters in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong.
In a report in the state-run newspaper Beijing Times, a company spokeswoman, identified only by the surname He, denied there were any labor violations at its factories.
"The labor department can come to our factory and investigate," He was quoted as saying.
Apple adopted a code of conduct for its suppliers last November, saying it was modeled after the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct and other labor standards.
The code bans child labor and sets a maximum of 60-hour work weeks, including overtime. The provisions also require suppliers to comply with applicable laws on minimum wages and to keep worker dormitories clean and safe.
Allegations of poor working conditions are rife in China and workers often are housed in rudimentary dormitories, fed poorly and subjected to poor pay, unsafe working conditions and other maltreatment.
Although $50 monthly would be relatively low pay, wages can run even lower for some jobs.
However, the official minimum wage in Shenzhen, where Foxconn has some of its factories, is about twice that amount.