For the first time, Apple has disclosed the identity of 156 suppliers, and said it will become the first tech company to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA).
This means that the FLA will investigate Apple suppliers and issue regular reports on their labor practices.
"We're extremely proud to be the first technology company admitted to the FLA," said Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of Operations.
"Last year we performed more than 200 audits at our supplier's facilities around the world. With the benefit of the FLA's experience and expertise, we will continue to drive improvements for workers and provide even greater transparency into our supply chain."
Apple can now claim it is the world's first fair trade electronics maker, which sets a higher bar for competitors.
This is exactly the course of action I campaigned for in May 2010, following a large number of suicides at Foxconn, one of Apple's most important suppliers of manufacturing services:
Apple has produced six "Supplier Responsibility" reports. The most recent one found major abuses of workers.
- 18 facilities screened job candidates or current workers for hepatitis B, and 52 facilities lacked policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination based on results of medical tests.
- 24 facilities conducted pregnancy tests, and 56 facilities did not have policies and procedures that prohibit discriminatory practices based on pregnancy.
- 93 facilities had records that indicated more than 50 percent of their workers exceeded weekly working hour limits of 60 in at least 1 week out of the 12 sample period.
- At 90 facilities, more than half of the records we reviewed indicated that workers had worked more than 6 consecutive days at least once per month, and 37 facilities lacked an adequate working day control system to ensure that workers took at least 1 day off in every 7 days.
- 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...
Apple is facing a major problem: A massive 109 of its suppliers (70%) violate at least one or more of its rules on labor conditions. But it has fired just one supplier, unnamed, but described as a repeat offender. Apple said it is working with other suppliers to improve their labor record.
This issue of worker conditions has become an important topic for Apple, which is worried that it could impact sales but just as important, it could harm staff morale. Tim Cook, Apple CEO sent a letter to each employee, saying that Apple is strongly committed to changing abusive labor practices
"Thanks to our supplier responsibility program, we've seen dramatic improvements in hiring practices by our suppliers. To prevent the use of underage labor, our team interviews workers, checks employment records and audits the age verification systems our suppliers use. These efforts have been very successful and, as a result, cases of underage labor were down sharply from last year. We found no underage workers at our final assembly suppliers, and we will not rest until the number is zero everywhere."
Who will follow Apple's example ? Will customers pay extra for a "Fair Trade Certified" computer, phone, or any electronic gadget?