Businessweek has an
incredible storythis weekend about how Apple gathers the workers it needs for its supply chain to keep up with the intense demand for the iPhone and other products.
The story explains how Apple’s suppliers around the world go on recruiting sprees, often hiring brokers to find cheap labour in countries like Nepal. Those workers sometimes have to pay fees of hundreds of dollars they don’t have to the brokers just to secure a job with one of Apple’s suppliers testing iPhone components like cameras. Sometimes those fees are more than the workers can pay off in a year.
And sometimes those brokers and suppliers hold their workers’ passports so they can’t leave their jobs, effectively turning the iPhone parts testers into indentured servants.
It’s a crazy story. This one centres around a man named Bibek Dhong, a 27-year-old subsistence farmer from Nepal who had to take a loan out for hundreds of dollars just so he could secure a job at Flextronics, one of Apple’s suppliers that tests iPhone cameras. Eventually, Dhong’s job and about 3,000 others at Flextronics were eliminated, but the company and brokers kept the workers’ passports, keeping them trapped from returning to their home countries.
This went on for two months until the workers, many of them going hungry because they were no longer being paid, revolted and the police had to intervene.
Apple told Bloomberg it does not allow its suppliers to use such brokers fees and promises to pay them back following an audit.