Apple inspections find labor violations at supplier factories

Jan 16, 2012
Tech

One of the biggest criticisms often leveled against Apple has to do with the working conditions of the supplier companies it uses in Asia to build components for and assemble its devices. Every year, Apple does inspections of its own with its suppliers, and a recently released audit report from the iPad and iPhone maker […]

One of the biggest criticisms often leveled against Apple has to do with the working conditions of the supplier companies it uses in Asia to build components for and assemble its devices.

Every year, Apple does inspections of its own with its suppliers, and a recently released audit report from the iPad and iPhone maker turned up a slew of labor violations at the many plants Apple relies upon to get its products made and on store shelves. The audit is surprisingly frank, as Fortune reports, but it also lacks some key information that might make it more actionable: an explanation of which factories and companies are responsible for which violations.

In an addendum to the report, Apple lists the 156 major subcontractors it uses to build its devices, some 97 percent of its supply chain. While those factories are listed, the report doesn’t say which of its subcontractors are responsible from of the violations it lists. Here are a few examples listed in Fortune’s report:

“42 facilities had payment practice violations, including delayed payment for employees’ wages and no pay slips provided to employees.”

“68 facilities did not provide employees adequate benefits as required by laws and regulations, such as social insurance and free physical examinations. 49 facilities did not provide employees with paid leaves or vacations.”

“67 facilities used deductions from wages as a disciplinary measure.”

Apple also listed separately what it called “core violations” to human rights and labor rights. Among those, Apple found five facilities that had “six active and 13 historical cases of underage labor.” In 19 facilities, “foreign contract workers had paid high recruitment fees to labor agencies.”

READ  Home Security Maximized with These Apps

The audit has both its positive and negative effects. On the one hand, Apple is now a part of the Fair Labor Association, as Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook noted in a letter to Apple employees that was published by French website MacGeneration. The FSL will likely be auditing some of the facilities Apple uses for labor violations, and there’s a chance conditions could be improved for many workers.

But Apple still isn’t really taking big steps toward making working conditions better for the laborers who make its huge profits and extremely popular devices possible. As Mike Daisey, a critic of Apple’s supply chain practices who has a one-man show discussing working conditions in Asia at supply chain plants called The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, points out, Apple’s use of anonymity for those suppliers means no real new information is available. And there probably won’t be many changes because of the audit.

Most electronics makers use several of the same companies for their supply and assembly needs, and Apple certainly isn’t the only company who should bear the criticism for the labor practices of its partners. Just last week, workers at a Foxconn plant that assembles Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game consoles threatened mass suicide after they were denied compensation allegedly owed to them by the company (that situation reportedly has since been worked out). Foxconn also saw suicides last year in its iPad plants, with working conditions often cited as the cause.

READ  The Ultimate Guide to Phone Security

But it appears that not a lot of changes will be made in terms of the conditions under which our electronics are made so long as the public continues to buy them. Apple might be making steps forward, but they’re pretty small so far. Consumers need to ask themselves if they still want to buy things like Xbox 360s and iPads, given the conditions under which they’re made.

Search for more

Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

    Home Apps Games