Apple Admits Supplier Abuse of Workers

Jan. 16, 2012
An audit of its supply chain showed that just 38% of the suppliers adhered to Apple's own standard of a maximum 60 hour work week and minimum one day off per week.

Apple said on Jan. 13 that some of its suppliers continued to overwork and underpay employees, as it threw open its factory doors to monitors after a spate of suicides at a Chinese plant.

After fielding heavy criticism for not policing conditions for the workers who produce its popular iPads, iPhones and other products, Apple divulged its list of suppliers and said it would allow an outside labor rights group to monitor them.

Meanwhile an annual internal audit of its supply chain showed that just 38% of the company's suppliers adhered to Apple's own standard of a maximum 60 hour work week and minimum one day off per week.

One-third of its suppliers were negligent in managing hazardous substances, and the same portion were below standard in injury prevention practice.

The company said it believed it had eliminated child labor among its final assembly suppliers.

"We will continue regular audits and go even deeper into our supply chain to ensure that there are no underage workers at any Apple supplier," it said in the report.

It also said it had forced suppliers last year to reimburse workers for some $3.3 million they paid in excess broker fees to get jobs at Apple supplier plants. Apple said it had forced a total of $6.7 million in such reimbursements since 2008.

"To the best of our knowledge, Apple is the only company in the electronics industry that mandates reimbursement of excessive recruitment fees."

The moves came after Apple endured heavy criticism for working conditions at some suppliers, and especially after a spate of suicides at a Chinese factory producing the iPhone that is owned by Taiwan's Foxconn group.

Meanwhile Apple also divulged for the first time a list of 156 suppliers who provide 97% of its materials and manufacturing services by value. The company has long kept the list secret, adding to the criticisms from groups saying it does not work hard enough to protect workers making its products. The list is a Who's Who of global tech suppliers, including many from Japan, China, and South Korea.

Other U.S. companies like Hewlett-Packard and Nike have released their supplier lists to help counter similar criticism.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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