Apple discovers underage workers, fires supplier

Apple discovers underage workers, fires supplier

Summary: In the tech giant's latest Supplier Responsibility report, Apple documented the discovery of 74 underage workers, and has cut ties with a supplier as a result.

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After stepping up the auditing of third-party suppliers and kinks within the supply chain, Apple has discovered multiple cases of underage workers.

apple foxconn workers transparency report underage fired supplier
(Credit: Apple)

Within the iPad and iPhone marker's latest Supplier Responsibility report released yesterday, the tech giant said that it has cut ties with a supplier after exposing child labor practices at Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics (PZ). The component supplier allegedly conspired with the families of 74 children to forge age-verification documents so that they could work, and knowingly hired them. As a result, PZ has now been fined and had its license suspended.

Apple has reported the violations to relevant local authorities, and the children--all of whom were under 16 years old--returned to their families. The report states:

The children were returned to their families, and PZ was required to pay expenses to facilitate their successful return. In addition, the company that subcontracted its work to PZ was prompted by our findings to audit its other subcontractors for underage labor violations--proving that one discovery can have far-reaching impact.

The tech giant has to rely heavily on Asian manufacturers and partners, including Taiwanese Foxconn, to keep up with iPhone and iPad demand, but after coming under fire over the allegedly poor conditions workers had to endure at Foxconn factories, audit systems have been revamped. Within the latest 2012 report, Apple said that there has been a 72 percent increase in the amount of audits conducted in the supply chain in comparison to 2011. In total, 393 audits were conducted, covering manufacturers that looked after 1.5 million employees.

Each audit explores not only the age of workers, but operational safety, working conditions, and supplier business practices. The annual report's intention is not only to boost transparency, but to also improve the safety and living conditions of workers within the Apple chain.

The report found that 95 percent of suppliers within Apple's supply chain now comply with working age regulations, and 92 percent complied with a maximum 60-hour working week, whereas last year's report only managed a compliance rate of 38 percent.

Internships have been a major focus of the latest audit, coming after Foxconn admitted to hiring interns under the age of 16. The firm said in October that it would "immediately" terminate any employee that facilitated the practice.

In an interview with Reuters, Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, said that the issue of child labor is a challenging one, and Apple is now probing the deeper recesses of its supply chain to try and eradicate the practice.

We go deep in the supply chain to find it. And when we do find it, we ensure that the underage workers are taken care of, the suppliers are dealt with. I don't know how long it will take to get there, but that's our goal.

Topics: Apple, Smartphones, Tablets

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28 comments
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  • Thrth:

    Dell starts you off at 3 months old ....
    AnAxe2Grind
    • And all this time,

      I thought it was Acer that used infant labor.
      Champ_Kind
      • What's so wrong with under-age workers?

        People want to make a living at a younger age. Why prevent them from doing so and send them to welfare instead?
        LBiege
        • Depends on the work, I suppose

          in the past, minor workers were favored because they were cheap and unlikely to complain about mistreatment.

          And actually, I think that teenagers should be able to opt for apprenticeship in lieu of high school (working under certified trade masters for the purpose of learning that trade, but that's a bit different than sending 8 years olds to work in coal mines because their parents can't afford to support them.
          John L. Ries
          • Or maybe...

            ...Apprentices could take high school classes part time in the evenings, focusing on things that all citizens should understand (like government, history, economics, composition, etc).
            John L. Ries
        • or worse

          instead of working in a controlled environment like a factory, they will have to resort to sifting rubbish dumps for recycleables, begging, stealing and/or prostitution.
          In farming communities, as soon as you can walk, you work on the farm with your parents. You grew up healthy, fit and strong with good working mentality, not fat and lazy from playing video games all day.
          warboat
  • Chinese government should be ashamed of itself

    It takes foreign companies (customers) to so its police work. I don't see Chinese companies sending audits to American farms to audit labor in the wheat fields....Of course, they have a plant in the New York Times to steer the bad PR toward Apple,
    flyguy29
    • There is no honor among Asians.

      That whole honor thing died out several generations ago... Now they are among the worst lying thieving bastards out there... They suck at lying and driving... They should stick to doing laundry.
      i8thecat4
      • @anonymous...

        I think you've been watching too much 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'.
        Jackie-Smith
    • what's there to police?

      kids working is STANDARD in asian countries.
      If you outlaw child labour, more than half of the farming communities would be out of work.
      Apple just wants to be seen taking the high moral ground in western eyes.
      warboat
  • Other News

    The fruity-themed maker of reassuringly expensive shiny toys aPPLE moves to another Chinese supplier that uses younger workers, but will get receive a significant number of supplies before this is discovered and yet another change is "required".
    HackerJ
    • LOL

      The real story is how long they knew about the under age workers. I'm only speculating here, but it wouldn't surprise me if they squeezed every drop of blood, sweat and tears before they had to let them go.
      Rob.sharp
      • It's really pathetic

        that you that your small minded hatred not only prevents you from giving credit where credit is due but you have to make BS like that to distract from the fact that they are doing what is right. You really need to get a life.
        non-biased
  • Lets add some T.D. Long spin to this

    "Did Apple know about this situation and didnt act on time?" Or " Could Apple be knowingly encouraging this supplier behavior?"

    Most likely they didnt know but in T.D. Longs magical mind press releases arent worth the paper they are written on
    Master Wayne
  • So, the parents were in on it...

    I seriously doubt they held guns to the parents' heads to get the permission. The parents themselves decided that they needed the money and sent their kid off to labor for the benefit "of the family".

    It's not just the manufacturer's fault here. How come we don't hear how the parents are punished? Oh, wait, this is a Communist country we're talking about. The bodies will probably never be found due to the embarrassment to The Party. If you don't believe stuff like that still happens there, then I have some tropical rain forest in Iowa to sell you.

    And yet we still do business with them. Goes to show that Corporations and Communism are much more alike than we'd ever want to believe.
    Zorched
    • Zorched:

      I like the last paragraph. You wil be surprised how close you are to the truth in saying this!
      fo128
  • Or at least pretend they do . . .

    "The report found that 95 percent of suppliers within Apple's supply chain now comply with working age regulations."

    Or at least pretend they do when the auditors show up . . .

    . . . I'm sure they're still under enormous pressure to keep prices down.

    Why do you think we use them? Because they're cheaper.

    Why do you think they're cheaper? Because of these practices.

    If they had labor laws as strict as we do, they'd be just as expensive.
    CobraA1
  • First World Third World Disconnect at its worst

    Three Cheers for the Child Welfare activism the children of 74 families have been return to them so they can be set off to work on the farm, the local business, or sold off to a loving domestic servant or "hospitality escort " business. They can live and wok conditions less safe than the big factory , and live in conditions that make the factory look like a four star hotel. Knowing the the treatment of girls, how much is the worth of a under 16 year old virgin to a man or a pimp.
    The First World person (in the US: the ugly American) can enjoy their wine and cheese in comfortable self righteous knowing the kid is no longer in the big bad factory but in the local economy as a slave or a prostitute.

    Now I am being sarcastic but there is a real issue of we in the first world ignorance of third world conditions; we can pressure Apple to boot kids out of the factory but is may not be the best of the child if the end up in the dangerous local economy or word slavery or the sex trade. Better leave them in the factory and pressure Apple to monitor them (limited working hours and educational opportunities). The goal is using labor to better the child opportunities than condemn them to misery. Sorry folks that's the condition of the third world as saw it or though the missions I support.
    Richardbz
    • The underlying problem is poverty

      And you're right that working in a factory is better than some other occupations that employ young children in third world countries, but ultimately the poverty problem is the one that has to be dealt with.

      So maybe we should be lobbying for a set of principles for ethically employing young workers, so they have a realistic chance of pulling themselves and their families out of poverty.
      John L. Ries
    • First World Third World Disconnect at its worst

      I, somewhat uncomfortably, agree with you.
      WatcherJohn