Apple COO: 'No company wants to talk about child labour... We shine a light on it'

Foxconn ipad

For years Apple has taken heat over claims about the treatment of some of the workers who assemble its products or who work in other parts of it’s supply chain.

Apple is not alone with such supply chain problems. The ugly truth about the tech industry is that computer chips, boards, cases, etc., rely on minerals sometimes mined under the most atrocious human rights conditions (known as “conflict minerals.’)

And then the computer parts are often assembled by workers of contract factories in developing nations that also work under appalling conditions.

Keeping tabs on the ethics of Apple’s supply chain is the job of long-time Apple exec Jeff Williams, who was newly promoted to Apple COO last month.

During a radio interview with syndicated radio show Conversations on Health Care, on Tuesday, Williams was asked about what Apple was doing to improve the situation.

Williams didn’t pull any punches (emphasis ours):

“We’re big believers that anyone involved in the process of working on an Apple product, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity We’ve really decided that workers rights are human rights and we do a lot of work to make sure workers are protected.

No company wants to talk about child labour. They don’t want to be associated with that. We shine a light on it. We go out and search for cases where an underage worker is found in a factory somewhere and then we take drastic actions with the supplier and the labour groups to try and make a change.”

Then we report it publicly every year. We take a lot of heat for that. But we think the only way to make change is to go hit it head-on and talk about it.”

For instance, in Apple’s 2015 Supplier Responsibility report, it said that it found 16 cases of underage labour at six facilities, out of 633 audits covering 1.6 million workers.

Jeffery Williams AppleAppleApple COO Jeff Williams

When found, the supplier is put in Apple’s “Underage LabourRemediation Program” which requires the supplier to pay for the child’s safe return home, pay for child’s school tuition, continue to pay the wages and then “offer the worker a job when he or she reaches the legal age.”

Child labour is one of the major no-no’s that will cause Apple to put a supplier on probation.

Others include slave labour, falsifying documents, “intimidation of or retaliation against workers participating in audits, and significant environmental impacts such as releasing untreated air emissions.”

If the supplier doesn’t stop the practice, Apple walks, Williams says. “To date, we have terminated relationships with 18 suppliers,” it says in its report.

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