Apple Releases Details Of Suppliers Using Underage Workers

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Apple discovered 17 violations of its Code of Conduct during a 2009 audit of 102 manufacturers and suppliers, including the employment of underage workers.

Apple found numerous violations during a 2009 audit of its suppliers and manufacturers, according to a recently issued 2010 progress report on supplier responsibility. Facility locations included China, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.

“Apple audits all final assembly manufacturers every year, regardless of their location and past audit performance,” the report reads. “We select component and non-production suppliers for audits based on risk factors, such as the prevailing conditions in the country where a supplier facility is located and the supplier’s past audit performance.”

Despite spending a large portion of its page count detailing those violations and the steps taken to correct them, the report also emphasises the training that workers and managers supposedly undergo to meet the company’s standards for safety and labour.

“Apple now requires our final assembly manufacturers to train all of their production workers, supervisors, and managers who work on Apple products—and we have updated their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to include the number of workers trained,” the report mentions at one point, detailing how worker training extends to the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct, preventing work-related injury, and workers’ rights and obligations under labor contract law. “In 2009, more than 128,000 workers were trained in their rights and obligations, and more than 5,000 supervisors and managers were trained in their responsibilities as managers.”

But after auditing 102 facilities in 2009, with 80 first-time audits and 22 repeat audits, Apple found 17 of what it termed “core violations” to its Supplier Code of Conduct, including “eight violations involving excessive recruitment fees; three cases where underage workers had been hired; three cases where our supplier contracted with non-certified vendors for hazardous waste disposal; and three cases of falsified records provided during the audit.”

Three facilities had hired 15-year-old workers “in countries where the minimum age for employment is 16.” In addition, auditors found that 11 other workers had been hired previous to reaching that legal working age. Apple claims that it required “each facility to develop and institute appropriate management system—such as more thorough ID checks and verification procedures—to prevent future employment of underage workers.”

In addition, Apple found that three facilities had noncertified hazardous waste companies performing their cleanup, and ordered them to stop shipping waste and hire certified vendors. On top of that, three facilities had falsified records with regard to underage workers and working hours; Apple stopped conducting business with one of these facilities.

“When a core violation is detected,” the report added, “we require that the facility remedy the situation immediately and implement management systems that ensure sustained compliance. In addition, the facility is placed on probation, usually for a period of one year, ending with a [re-audit] to ensure the core violation has not reoccurred.”

Apple previously received attention for its suppliers’ conduct in July 2009, after an engineer at iPhone and iPod manufacturer Foxconn fell to his death from the twelfth floor of his Shenzhen apartment building after an iPhone prototype went missing. That engineer, Sun Danyong, had previously claimed in a text message to a friend that he had been interrogated and beaten by Foxconn security after the device disappeared. Apple claimed that Foxconn had previously passed inspection in many areas.

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