24 February 2010 | Jake Kanter
Technology giant Apple has uncovered evidence of child labour in its supply chain.
Apple’s detailed 2010 Supplier Responsibility progress report said it carried out 102 vendor audits last year at facilities in a number of countries including China and Taiwan.
The audits exposed 17 “core violations” of the firm’s supplier code of conduct.
The violations included employment of underage workers, improper hazardous waste disposal, false records and suppliers signing contracts with uncertified vendors.
Apple found three plants had hired 15-year-old workers in countries where the minimum age of employment is 16. It discovered that 11 members of staff had been hired across the three vendors before reaching this minimum age. These people were no longer underage or employed at the time of the audit.
The company ordered the vendors to develop and implement management systems, such as more stringent ID checks, to prevent further violations.
Apple also uncovered evidence of three suppliers hiring uncertified hazardous-waste disposal companies and three cases of vendors attempting to conceal poor labour standards.
Other common violations included supply chain staff working excessive overtime and in some cases not being paid properly for extra hours.
At 24 factories, Apple auditors found that employees had been paid less than the minimum wage for regular working hours. It required vendors to repay the wages and improve payment standards.
In addition, Apple has worked to stamp out occupational injuries, for example ensuring staff are trained to use equipment such as forklift trucks and wear the correct protective clothing.
Overall, the company said it had helped empower supply chain workers and will continue to increase supplier training programmes and eliminate bad practice.
“Apple continues to improve and expand our supplier responsibility programme to ensure that working conditions in our supply base are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible,” the report said.