The people that actually assemble Apple products like the iPhone don’t actually work for Apple — the Cupertino giant contracts with manufacturing companies like Foxconn and Pegatron to do it for them.
And since those companies are based in Asia, which have different labour standards than the US, it’s a constant battle for Apple to ensure that its products are built ethically and to its standards.
Apple said on Monday that it performed 705 checks on its various manufacturing facilities in 2016, and found 22 core violations of labour and human rights, including bonded labour violations, falsification of working hours, and harassment violations.
Only one of those violations was for an underage worker, who was “a 15½-year-old” at the time of the discovery. The legal working age in China is 16.
Apple required the supplier that hired the child worker to “continue paying their wages while also providing an educational opportunity” and provide him “safe passage” home.
When the underage worker turns 16, the factory this person worked at will be required to provide a job offer, Apple said.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for anyone under legal working age to be in our supply chain,” Apple said in the report. Apple’s 705 checks covered 1.2 million workers, according to the report.
“All supplier core violations are escalated directly to senior management at Apple and the supplier, and are required to be addressed immediately,” Apple writes.
‘Supplier shall employ only Workers who are at least 15 years of age’
Apple’s official underage labour policy lists 15 as the minimum age to build Apple products, unless there’s a law in the local region with a higher minimum age. According to the policy, Apple’s suppliers should match photo IDs to worker’s faces, verify workers’ ages through local government offices or online, and inspect their facilities periodically. Sometimes, supplier employees see Apple as a force that is able to put pressure on the manufacturer to improve working conditions, according to an open letter from an worker at an Apple supplier published by China Labour Watch, an activist group.
Often, violations like these happen without Apple knowing, which is why the company routinely drops in and checks their facilities, performing about two of these checks per day total during 2016. But there are a lot of factories working on Apple products, so while 705 checks sounds like a lot, it’s really not.
Apple did not respond to repeated requests for more information about its supplier responsibility eport.
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