'Ethical iPhone 5' petition attracts thousands of signatures

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition urging Apple to change the ways its suppliers treat workers.

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition that urges Apple to change the ways its suppliers treat workers who will make the iPhone 5, our sister site CNET News reports .

The campaign was started by a group called SumOfUs, and asks people to sign a petition telling Apple, "The quality of working conditions matters as much as the quality of your products. Make the iPhone 5 and your other products ethically."

Working conditions in the factories where iPhones and other gadgets are made often make the headlines. Recently we reported that 300 staff at Foxconn -- a Chinese manufacturing plant used by Microsoft, Apple and others -- threatened to commit mass suicide over working conditions.

The petition is in the wake of a New York Times report published a few days ago on factory conditions, which cites an ex-Foxconn employee who said, "Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost."

Meanwhile, an anonymous source claiming to be a former Apple exec is quoted as saying, "We've known about labour abuses in some factories for four years, and they're still going on."

Apple doesn't directly employ the people who work in those factories, rather it pays the suppliers to make its products. But that doesn't mean Apple is powerless to improve working conditions for factory workers, the petition claims. 

Apple is an extremely wealthy company, and the contracts to build its gadgets run into billions of dollars. That aforementioned anonymous source told the NYT, "Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn't have a choice."

Apple has a site detailing its approach to supplier responsibility. The Cupertino tech giant says it "does not tolerate involuntary labour, underage labour, or discrimination" and that suppliers "must create a safe and healthy work environment". Apple has also published a list of its suppliers.

Now those signing the petition are looking to Apple to use its clout as one of the biggest manufacturing clients in the world to look again, and really force suppliers to change working conditions.

What do you think? Is it fair to hold Apple to this standard but not other companies who use the same manufacturers? Or should it be setting an example? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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