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Aussie activists call for 'ethical iPhone'

Activists today gathered at the Apple Store in Sydney's CBD to deliver a petition with 250,000 signatures calling for Apple to employ ethical manufacturing processes in the production of its future products.

Activists today gathered at the Apple Store in Sydney's CBD to deliver a petition with 250,000 signatures calling for Apple to employ ethical manufacturing processes in the production of its future products.

The group hand delivered the petition to staff at the Apple Store in Sydney's CBD. (Credit: CBSi)

A group of 10 protesters delivered the petition in a wheelbarrow, asking Apple to respond to recent criticisms, most notably in the New York Times, that conditions in the Chinese manufacturing plants where Apple products are assembled are so bad that some workers suffer permanent physical injury. The petition is asking Apple CEO Tim Cook to develop worker-protection strategies for all workers involved in the production of Apple products.

"I don't think it matters where they make them, so long as the workers are being paid a fair wage, and aren't being subjected to hazardous chemicals, and they aren't forced to stand for 18 hours a day so their legs swell," said Paul Ferris, one of the signatories of the petition, which originated on the website Change.org.

Ferris explained that he was on the verge of buying an iPhone when he read about the conditions in the Foxconn manufacturing plants in China, and is now holding off until Apple improves conditions for its workers and he is confident that the company is producing "ethical" products. He said that he understands Apple is not the only major electronics maker using these plants in China, but he feels that Apple is in the best position to initiate change.

"Apple is the market leader ... they are the leaders in design and product innovation; I signed the petition because I think they should be leaders in [worker's] conditions, as well", said Ferris.

The delivery of the petitions in Sydney coincides with similar activity around the world overnight, with petitions being delivered to Apple Stores in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, London and Bangalore.

"We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain," an Apple representative told CNET in the US. "We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made."

This statement reiterates the core message from an email by the company's new CEO Tim Cook to Apple staff a fortnight ago. In his email, Cook spoke of Apple's inspection process for manufacturing partners and its work in educating workers of their rights, and also in changing the conditions for these people. He vowed to his staff that Apple will not "stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain".