Apple Inc.'s chief executive responded to a wave of negative attention to conditions at overseas factories that make its products, saying the insinuation that Apple doesn't care about the welfare of its workers is "offensive."
"Unfortunately, some people are questioning Apple's values today," Tim Cook wrote in an e-mail to Apple employees. "Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern."
A series of articles in the New York Times has brought new focus on Apple's highly profitable production strategy, which relies heavily on Chinese workers who live in dormlike factories and spend many hours assembling devices. The safety records and working conditions in those factories have been questioned, and Apple's labor practices received intense scrutiny in 2010, when more than a dozen workers at Chinese iPhone plants committed suicide.
The later New York Times article quoted former Apple and Foxconn employees saying that Apple prioritized profit and production speed above worker welfare.
The company was trying to address problems in its factories, one of the sources said, "but most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from."
In Cook's note, first published by 9to5Mac, he said that Apple was a world leader in improving overseas working conditions, and will continue to work hard to find and fix problems.
"We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues," Cook wrote. "What we will not do -- and never have done -- is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word."