CAPPUCCINO COMPANY Apple has released a report in which it reveals that in the last year it used three suppliers that had hired underage workers, while others are underpaying staff on a regular basis.
The Apple Supplier Responsibility Report makes for slightly uncomfortable reading. Not only have Apple’s suppliers had eleven underage workers on their books, but others were improperly disposing of waste and chucking workers’ rights in the bin.
“Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility wherever our products are made. We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes,” begins the report before detailing a catalogue of horrors.
The firm looked at 109 suppliers in 2009. It said that it works with them, educating them on good work policies and local government to ensure the best conditions for workers. One of its recent activities has been to stop workers from being exploited by being forced to pay excessive fees to worker agencies.
“As a result of our audits and corrective foreign workers have been reimbursed $22.2 million in recruitment fee overcharges. In 2009, we initiated two proactive strategies, collaborating with government agencies and cofounding a cross-industry focus group to educate our suppliers on solutions that address their challenges,” the report said.
Not all of these suppliers are squeaky clean though, and in fact not many of them are. For example, in China Apple found a firm that was paying under the minimum wage and made it pay back workers. It also “identified three facilities that had previously hired 15-year-old workers in countries where the minimum age for employment is 16″, and “discovered three facilities that had hired noncertified hazardous waste disposal companies”. Some others simply falsified documents and exploited the auditing process. One in particular excelled at this, according to the report.
“In one instance, Apple ‘s 2008 audit had revealed falsified records for working hours and days of rest. When Apple returned in 2009 for a core violation the facility again falsified records – presenting worker timecards, daily production output records,and quality control records that indicated no violations related to working hours or days of rest. When Apple investigated we uncovered additional records and conducted worker interviews that revealed excessive working hours and seven days of continuous work.”
Excessive working hours appear to a constant problem with the suppliers, and almost half of them have exceeded local work-hour limits. “At 60 facilities,we found records that indicated workers had exceeded weekly work-hour limits more than 50 percent of the time. Similarly,at 65 facilities, more than half of the records we reviewed indicated that workers had worked more than six consecutive days at least once per month.”
Forty eight suppliers had failed to correctly work out overtime payments, and a quarter of these had accounting systems that were so over-complicated that accurate payroll was almost impossible. “15 facilities where the facility’s pay structure was unnecessarily complex and could result in underpayment of wages,” said Apple.
Fifty seven firms were not offering acceptable employee benefits, such as sick pay and maternity leave, while 20 facilities were conducting pregnancy tests, and 49 did not provide staff with the necessary health and safety equipment.