Apple admits supplier abuse of workers

2012-01-14 08:00

Washington - Apple admitted on Friday some of its suppliers continued to overwork and underpay employees, as it threw open its factory doors to monitors after a spate of suicides at a Chinese plant.

After fielding heavy criticism for not policing conditions for the workers who produce its popular iPads, iPhones and other products, Apple divulged its list of suppliers and said it would allow an outside labour rights group to monitor them.

Meanwhile an annual internal audit of its supply chain showed that just 38% of the company's suppliers adhered to Apple's own standard of a maximum 60 hour work week and minimum one day off per week.

One-third of its suppliers were negligent in managing hazardous substances, and the same portion were below standard in injury prevention practice.

The company said it believed it had eliminated child labour among its final assembly suppliers.

"We will continue regular audits and go even deeper into our supply chain to ensure that there are no underage workers at any Apple supplier," it said in the report.

It also said it had forced suppliers last year to reimburse workers for some $3.3m they paid in excess broker fees to get jobs at Apple supplier plants. Apple said it had forced a total of $6.7m in such reimbursements since 2008.

"To the best of our knowledge, Apple is the only company in the electronics industry that mandates reimbursement of excessive recruitment fees."

The moves came after Apple endured heavy criticism for working conditions at some suppliers, and especially after a spate of suicides at a Chinese factory producing the iPhone that is owned by Taiwan's Foxconn group.

Greater transparency

Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder who died in August, was forced to deny in 2010 that the company supported worker-abusing "sweatshops".

Apple said its newest Supplier Responsibility report involved 229 audits throughout the company's supply chain last year, 80% more than in 2010, the year criticism of the company from labour rights groups intensified.

In parallel with the release of the report, Apple said it would allow the Fair Labour Association to independently investigate and report on conditions in its suppliers.

"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," said Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations.

Meanwhile Apple also divulged for the first time a list of 156 suppliers who provide 97% of its materials and manufacturing services by value.

The company has long kept the list secret, adding to the criticisms from groups saying it does not work hard enough to protect workers making its products.

The list is a Who's Who of global tech suppliers, including many from Japan, China, and South Korea.

Other US companies like Hewlett-Packard and Nike have released their supplier lists to help counter similar criticism.

  • Neville - 2012-01-14 10:01

    Those suppliers is SLAVE DRIVERS get rid of them

      Johann Eloff - 2012-01-15 23:54

      Unfortunately there are a billion of them queuing to take its place. Working conditions in China can seriously not be Apples fault. The issue has to go a lot deeper than that. At the end of the day it's supply and demand, its not personal it's just business! And if they stop supplying it then the next supplier will step up. If they are willing to supply then there must be a demand and I promise you that is the Apple consumer who is creating this high demand and the Chinese worker on the other end is result of the effect. Sent from my IPad

  • mikenortje - 2012-01-14 10:07

    China the economice liberators of Africa ...... NOT!!! wake up SA and Africa

  • MichaelPayne - 2012-01-14 11:11

    lol, I wonder if any iphone users that see this will even feel a slight twinge of guilt? p.s I still want an iphone :)

      goyougoodthing - 2012-01-14 11:40

      No guilt at all. Nothing wrong with a decent sweat shop, I just wonder why my Apple products cost so much considering the cheap labour. :-)

      goyougoodthing - 2012-01-14 12:36

      Everyone is a slave Johnson, only a few know it.

  • Maximus Odinidus - 2012-01-14 11:52

    So where are all the communist china sympathizers right now? The anti western "imperialist" commentators? Hey grazziella and co? This is the reality of the everyday Chinese man. Exploitation, exploitation, exploitation. This is what doing business with china is about and what has it brought our country? Nothing! Don't be fooled by the "trade" relationship SA has with china, it's actually a covert economic war.

  • Doug - 2012-01-14 18:43

    The dust explosions at Apple supplier, foxconn has an interesting connection to the University of Michigan. In the 1990's Chinese scientists came to UM to study with an expert in industrial explosions like those that happened at Foxconn but when they returned to China these scientists went to work on weapons for the Chinese military rather than on improving safety. This has been a problem with these "dual use" technologies that our universities give freely to China, they often go to building up their military instead of to improving the lives of their citizens. Read more at

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