Apple suppliers in China, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, are being audited by the Fair Labor Association, a US-based labor rights organization, Apple announced on its official website yesterday.
The move follows growing criticism over labor and environmental practices in China's factories and petitions delivered to Apple stores around the world calling for improved conditions for Chinese workers.
Despite the criticism, however, thousands of Chinese workers have been queuing up for the chance of a job on the assembly line.
On Monday, a team of labor rights experts began the first inspections at a facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City, Apple said.
Foxconn Technology Group, which manufactures Apple's iPhones and iPads, attracted public attention over allegedly poor working conditions and worker management after 13 workers committed suicide by jumping off the factory's buildings in 2010.
Apple said the FLA would be interviewing employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, pay, working hours and communication with management.
The team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment, Apple said.
Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said: "We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we've asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers."
The team's findings and recommendations will be posted on its website, www.fairlabor.org, the Apple announcement said.
A week ago, petitions were delivered to Apple stores in London, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Sydney and Bangalore, calling on Apple to improve conditions for workers in China.
Apple's suppliers, including Foxconn, are seeing a growing number of employees seeking jobs after the Spring Festival holiday.
Earlier this month, thousands lined up at the entrance to Foxconn's Shenzhen factory after it announced it would be recruiting 30,000 workers this year, according to the Nanfang Daily.