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Apple: Our Supplier Factories Employed Minors

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.

  • SlyMaelstrom
    This is lame... so they were underage when they were hired but aren't underage, now, which likely means they were hired maybe six months to a year before they reached legal age. It's not like we're talking about little eight year old soldering resistors onto motherboards 15 hours a day... we're talking about a manager hiring a teenage off the books so he can pay for clothes or school supplies.

    Also, sixty hours a week isn't an overwhelming amount of time... granted that "forcing" people to work that amount of time is pretty uncouth in the USA and most modern civilization, but it's pretty common practice in your poorer countries to work long hours in order to pay the bills.

    I'm not trying to say that these aren't bad things, but clearly Apple is taking an initiative on fixing them which is pretty noble when you consider that companies like Nike have employers in India that literally OWN the children that work for them and are treated like slaves while the corporate side just denies it all.
    Reply
  • steddy
    Isn't the title of the article a bit harsh? It was the suppliers that were hiring underage workers, not Apple itself. Also, congrats to Apple for cracking down on this sort of thing.
    Reply
  • Pei-chen
    So kids can't have jobs now? I remember working at a computer shop when I was 15 so I can buy parts for my computer and other goodies.
    Reply
  • christopherknapp
    Totally lame article. The above posters have it spot on.
    Reply
  • snurp85
    slymaelstrom - 60 hours a week is alot. 10 hour days 6 days a week for less than minimum wage and no overtime. Not to mention, 60 hour weeks for teenagers?!??! The fact that apple charges so much for their computers and yet their pays their employees so little is outlandish.

    steddy - Apple clearly is not doing anything about this problem despite knowing about it. These reports are published every year and have consistently shown the have recurring problems. It would seem that Apple is okay with workshops.
    Reply
  • donovands
    Apple is a drop in the bucket. There's a reason nothing is manufactured in the West anymore. It's far better for a company's bottom line to get cheap labor in 3rd world countries. How can a Western country compete with a labor force that works twice as long for a tiny fraction of the cost? Imagine what Apple products would cost if manufactured in the US?
    Reply
  • thackstonns
    slymaelstromI'm not trying to say that these aren't bad things, but clearly Apple is taking an initiative on fixing them which is pretty noble when you consider that companies like Nike have employers in India that literally OWN the children that work for them and are treated like slaves while the corporate side just denies it all.
    Really I didnt see anything noble in there, as a matter of fact I saw the exact opposite. You point me to the place in the story where Apple pulls the factories contract because of the violations, and I will agree. Until then apple hasnt done anything besides run a report.

    you know Toms its funny the dumb ads and feedback expand everytime I roll over them by accident, but half the time the damn submit button doesnt work. Maybe you should fix that.
    Reply
  • deadlockedworld
    ArtificialintelYou would think this would generate good press for Apple, considering that they're the only ones attempting to enforce any kind of labor rules amongst their suppliers. I guess the lesson learned for corporate America is: don't investigate if your suppliers are compliant, and don't tell anyone if you find your suppliers aren't compliant. Good job, all of you outraged at Apple over them releasing the report of their own audit!
    This is exactly right. Apple cared enough to find out and now the press is trying to screw them for it. I guarantee all the parts suppliers use child labor...
    Reply
  • deadlockedworld
    thackstonnsReally I didnt see anything noble in there, as a matter of fact I saw the exact opposite. You point me to the place in the story where Apple pulls the factories contract because of the violations, and I will agree. Until then apple hasnt done anything besides run a report.
    If you read the full report (or read it from a news source that writes in longer than 3-paragraph stories) you would see that they ARE challenging/renegotiating contracts with supplier companies because of the violations.
    Reply
  • Kelavarus
    I pretty much laugh at anyone complaining about child labor after having traveled the world for 5 years. 90% of the time, they NEED those jobs. They're not (technically) being forced into it, they don't have a choice because they need the money for their family. Then the Western world gets involved and takes their job away from them and only puts them into more poverty while saying "Hey, look, now we've saved you!"
    Reply