by Nicole Stevens
Many accusations have been made against Apple Incorporated. Some of these accusations include the use of children under the minimum work age for work in several factories, the falsification of many factory records, and the poor working conditions and abuse of factory workers. It is sad to know that after many years of activists working hard to abolish the issue of slavery, it still exists. Luckily, Apple is more likely to do something about this issue than other companies facing the same problem.
Apple factories have committed seventeen core violations of the Suppliers Code of Conduct. Of these seventeen violations, three involved the hiring of underage workers. Each factory is now required to implement better identification-verification procedures as a solution to these core violations. In three other cases, the subject of the audit gave the company falsified records. Two of these cases involved the illegitimate records of working hours and days of rest. The other case involved underage labor in one factory. In 2008 and 2009 this plant had also falsified its own records regarding work hours and days of rest.
Apple’s 2010 Supplier Responsibility report said that three facilities had hired fifteen year old workers in countries where the minimum age for employment is sixteen. In these three facilities, Apple’s auditors found records of eleven workers who had been hired prior to reaching the legal age. These workers were no longer working for the factories or had reached the minimum working age at the time of the audit. When the employment records were reviewed by the auditors they concluded that the facilities must implement better identification-verification procedures. Also, in 2008 an Apple factory was found with a total of twenty-five child workers whom had been employed to build iPods, iPhones, and its range of computers, but there have been no further reports about whether the factory had been closed or if the child workers are still being used.
In response to the findings of the eleven underage workers Apple said they were not longer employed. However, they did not clarify whether the children that were exploited by their company were unceremoniously tossed back into the pool of potential child laborers or provided some sort of tools or resources to help prevent them from being sucked back in by another factory. They also haven’t been very specific about what they plan to do as a company to prevent child labor in the future and almost no attention has been given to the labor violations against adults working in Apple factories.
After the underage children workers had been found in the factories, Apple said in its annual report to suppliers, “in each of the three facilities, we required a review of all employment records for the year as well as a complete analysis of the hiring process to clarify how underage people had been able to gain employments.” This statement shows that the company has done something about the accusations and children found. Hopefully the company will use further measures and precautions to avoid the use of other child workers in their factories.
In eight facilities Apple found workers who had paid excessive recruitment fees. An auditor investigated the hiring process and required the suppliers to reimburse the workers. According to Apple, in the past two years workers have been reimbursed $2.2 million of overcharge recruitment fees. In these three cases Apple retained independent auditors to review the human resource records and further search for any more falsified records. After the review, no more false records had been found.
Some of Apple’s factories have recently been accused of being “sweatshops”. A little over half of the companies over sea factories have been ignoring the company law that employees cannot work more than sixty hours a week. The majority of Apple Inc. factories are located in China and are breaking the Chinese labor laws which prohibit employees from working more than forty-nine hours a week. China Labor watch, a New York based NGO had accused Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that is the world’s largest maker of electronic components, of inhumane and militant management, which neglects basic human rights. In its report, Apple revealed the sweatshop conditions inside the factories it uses and admitted that fifty-five of the one hundred and two factories were ignoring Apple’s rule that staff cannot work more than sixty hours a week. The company’s own guidelines are already in violation of China’s widely ignored labor law, which states that workers can work a maximum of forty-nine hours per week.
Also, in 2006 Apple discovered that many of the workers in a Chinese iPod factory were exceeding the company’s limits for overtime. Apple ordered the factory to comply with its limits and reported that the workers at the factory were paid as little as fifty dollars a month and were forced to work fifteen hour shifts.
A British newspaper reported that a Chinese factory that manufactured Apple products, such as iPods, had employees working a fifteen hour normal work day. These employees are paid as little as fifty US dollars a month and live in dormitories that are off limits to outsiders, people who do not work in the factory. The employer of this factor is Tawainese manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry and actually employs the workers. In this article Pratap Chatterjee the executive director of CorpWatch reported that although Apple is the computer of choice for activists, for the media, and for students, it will do what it has to, to preserve its image and selling products is likely to come first.
A little over half of Apple’s factories, sixty-five percent, were actually paying wages and benefits due to the workers. Twenty four factories in China alone had violated minimum wage laws along with the Chinese labor laws. One of these factories in China counterfeited its records to hide their underage workers and the company’s violations of the other workers’ rights. Due to these infringements this specific factory has been shut down. Also, only sixty-one percent of the factories Apple uses were following correct safety regulations and only fifty-seven percent had the necessary environmental reports for operation.
Apple has also been accused for using factories that abuse workers and where conditions are poor. At one factory that manufactures products for Apple and Nokia, sixty-two workers were discovered to be poisoned by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause muscular degeneration and blur eyesight. The plant is run by Wintek, in the Chinese city of Suzhou. Wintek said n-hexane was commonly used in the technology industry and that problems had arisen because some areas of the factory were not ventilated properly.