Apple: Our Supplier Factories Employed Minors
Apple has said that it has found 17 labor violations at its factories. The one garnering most attention is the use of underage employees.
Apple has released its 2010 Supplier Responsibility report (PDF), revealing that three of its suppliers have hired underage workers. Though these employees were either no longer working at the factories or no longer underage at the time of the audit, Apple's inspectors found records of 11 employees who had been hired prior to reaching the legal age. However, child labor was not the only violation uncovered by the audit.
Apple also found more than 50 factories that forced employees to work longer than Apple's maximum 60-hour weeks. Some facilities were depriving staff of benefits such as sick leave. All told, the inspectors uncovered 17 violations; a 'core violation' is considered the most serious class of violation. "It refers to any practice or situation that we consider to be contrary to the core principles underlying Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct," Apple said.
Three of these violations were cases of falsifying records. That is, factories tried to cover up other violations by presenting inspectors with records that had been tampered with. One had tried to cover up hiring underage workers in the past, while the other two tried to cover up the fact that employees were overworked and not awarded days of rest. One facility falsified these records two years running. The company was caught in both 2008 and 2009.
Apple also found a staggering number of facilities that were not paying staff correctly:
At 48 of the facilities audited, we found that overtime wages had been calculated improperly, resulting in underpayment of overtime wages. At 24 facilities, our auditors found that workers had been paid less than minimum wage for regular working hours. In most of these cases, the facility’s pay structure for regular hours depended on attendance-related bonuses to meet minimum wage requirements; without these bonuses, there was no guarantee that the minimum wage would be met. We also found 15 facilities where the facility’s pay structure was unnecessarily complex and could result in underpayment of wages.
Other violations include excessive recruitment fees and three cases where suppliers contracted with non-certified vendors for hazardous waste disposal.
When a core violation is detected, Apple requires that the facility remedy the situation immediately, as well as implement management systems that ensure continued compliance. The facility is also placed on probation for a period of one year, ending with a reaudit to ensure the violation has not reoccurred.
Apple inspected 102 facilities across China, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States.