Sunday, February 20, 2011

Apple - Its own report found child workers, bribes, "involuntary labor" and bribery in its suppliers

[ars technica] Apple discovered underage workers, "involuntary labor," worker endangerment, and bribery at some of its supplier facilities over the course of 2010, the company revealed in its 2011 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report.

The updated report offered details on Apple's regular audits conducted on foreign manufacturers as well as Apple's response to the discoveries. In addition to terminating business with facilities with the most egregious violations, Apple also investigated the so-called Foxconn suicides, agreeing that Foxconn's actions to address worker unrest had "definitely saved lives."

Over the course of 2010, Apple found 37 "core violations" across 127 supplier facilities located across Asia—Apple defines a "core violation" as a serious breach of Apple's code of conduct, which prohibits worker abuse, the use of underage labor, intimidation of workers, and so on. According to the report, Apple discovered one facility that was exposing workers to toxic chemicals, four facilities that either presented false payroll records to Apple or gave misleading answers to Apple's audit team, one bribery attempt, one attempt to coach workers to give positive answers to Apple's audit team, and a total of 91 underage workers across 10 facilities.

Apple's responses to these violations largely involved the company telling the manufacturers to tighten up their practices—in the case of toxic chemicals, Apple required the companies to discontinue their use and improve their ventilation systems, for example. Some facilities with underage workers were found to have poor ID check systems, so they were told to send the kids back to school and improve management so that such a thing wouldn't happen again in the future. (Sending the kids back to school doesn't just mean kicking them out of the factory, either—Apple says that suppliers must pay for educational expenses and lost wages for six months or until the worker turns 16, whichever is longer.)

Facilities that were found to be underpaying workers were told to start paying the appropriate amount and to respect local law.

There were a handful of cases, however, where Apple decided the violations were too much and severed its connections with the firms in question. For example, one facility had apparently falsified its payroll records multiple times with Apple in the past and was found to be doing so yet again, resulting in the loss of Apple's business. The same happened to one facility whose manager attempted to bribe Apple's audit team into giving a good report.

Another facility that employed an unusually large number of underage workers (42) apparently had no interest in remedying the problem. "Based on the poor likelihood of improvement, we terminated business with the facility," Apple wrote in its report. Apple didn't name which specific manufacturers made which violations.

Apple's 2011 supplier report: child workers, bribes, "involuntary labor"

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