Apple discovers 91 child labourers in Chinese factories


15 Feb 2011

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Apple audited 127 facilities in its supply base, finding 91 cases of underage workers in Chinese factories.

According to Apple’s Supply Responsibility report, during a third-party audit of these factories, the company found that recruitment sources for these Chinese factories provided false IDs to misrepresent the ages of potential workers within these factories.

As a result, Apple said it intensified its search by interviewing workers and looking at recruiting practices and employment records, particularly when third-party labour agencies and schools were involved.

Ten Chinese factories had employees under 16, the minimum working age in the country. In one factory, 42 employees were under age, because management chose to overlook this matter. As a result, Apple terminated its contract with the factory.

As a result, Apple has required the facilities to implement policies to prevent the hiring of under-age workers. Management of these companies must attend training on the matter and it will be followed up on.

Apple also said it was focused on helping these under-age workers return to their families and go back to school. Their standards require suppliers to pay for educational expenses, living stipends and lost wages for six months or until the worker reaches 16.

The company also said it provided individual assistance, which includes contacting families, identifying educational options, enrolling the student in school and following up on his or her progress.

Suicides

Apple also responded to a string of suicides which occurred at the Shenzen facility of Foxconn, due to alleged stressful working conditions.

The company hired “the most knowledgeable suicide prevention specialists” with experience in China and along with COO Tim Cook and other executives, went to the factory in June 2010.

They met with the CEO to get a greater understanding of conditions and to assess measures take for the issue.

Apple then commissioned an independent review by a team of suicide prevention experts to develop strategies.

The team recommended hiring more psychological councillors, creating a 24-hour care centre and attaching large nets to the factory to prevent impulsive suicides.

Foxconn is also implementing an employee assistance program for their workers’ mental health and it has begun expanding operations across China to allow employees to be closer to home.

Audit

The report identified other issues among these factories, including the source of raw materials. Apple requires that these materials are retrieved “through a conflict-free process and from sources that adhere to our standards of human rights and environmental protection.”

Apple also found that in one facility, workers suffered “adverse health effects” following exposure to n-hexane, a chemical in cleaning agents used in some manufacturing processes. Apple told the facility not to use this chemical and to improve ventilation in the factory.

One facility offered to bribe the third-party auditor, another concealed a part of the factory from audit and three presented false payroll recorders to the auditors.

The audit of 127 factories found that 72pc of factories were compliant with human rights and health and safety standards.

Eighty per cent were environmentally compliant and 95pc were ethically compliant.

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