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Apple finds 91 children working at supplier factories

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By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 15 Feb 2011 at 15:54

Apple has found 91 children working at its supplier factories.

The iPhone-maker reported the findings in its supplier responsibility report, after undertaking 127 audits of factories in 2010.

Out of those 127, Apple said it found nine Chinese factories with 49 workers who were under 16, the local minimum working age.

A tenth factory, also in China, had employed 42 children under 16. "We determined management had chosen to overlook the issue and was not committed to addressing the problem," Apple said in the report.

Apple's supplier report

Of the 127 factories audited:

- 60% had workers doing more than the 60-hour a week limit

- 64% didn't have clear emergency exits

- 63% didn't store hazardous chemicals properly

Apple had the supplier company send the young workers back to school, and then stopped doing business with it. "Based on the poor likelihood of improvement, we terminated business with the facility," the report said, adding that it reported a school that helped recruit the children to the Chinese Government.

The report also highlighted 18 factories that charged excessive fees to recruit foreign workers, leaving them essentially in debt to their employer - which the firm calls "involuntary labour". Apple said it has forced the suppliers to pay back $3.4 million in such fees since 2008.

Toxic conditions

Furthermore, Apple revealed 137 workers at a Wintek factory were poisoned by a chemical called n-hexane, which was used to clean device screens. The chemical has since been removed from use.

While actually publishing such a report is unusual, critics noted that Apple didn't reveal the names of the suppliers causing trouble - despite the likelihood that those factories are still being used by other tech firms.

"I regard this report as a means of image-building rather than ensuring compliance with labour rights," Debby Chan of Hong Kong's Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour campaign, told The Guardian.

Foxconn "saved lives"

Last year, a spate of suicides at the Shenzhen-based Foxconn factory drew attention to working conditions at the Apple supplier.

To find out more, Apple sent a team including COO Tim Cook in June, surveying 1,000 employees and investigating the suicides. The resulting report praised Foxconn for hiring counsellors, creating a 24-hour help centre, and installing "large nets" to catch "impulsive suicides".

"Most important, the investigation found that Foxconn's response had definitely saved lives," Apple's report claimed.

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User comments

If only more companies compiled more reports like this

It's amazing how few companies take their social responsibilities this seriously so long as they get everything at the cheapest price and the abuses occur "far away in China".

I wonder how many other companies, from all industries, would find such information if only they didn't turn a blind eye? Probably most since price is usually their only consideration...

By SwissMac on 15 Feb 2011

Names?

So why are Apple not saying which factories are not complying?

Nice that Foxconn's factory has now 'saved lives' by putting systems in place - but have they addressed the reason for the suicides?
Do the workers have time to see these councillors or contact the help centre?
Is this treating the cause or the symptom?

As SwissMac has brought the issue up, why is Apple using Chinese suppliers?
Oh, yes, that would be price, wouldn't it?

By greemble on 16 Feb 2011

If they named names...

they would probably be sued by the companies involved and they probably wouldn't find any other slave-labour companies willing to work with them...

By big_D on 16 Feb 2011

Now if only Apple could look after the environment. They're dropping rapidly down the eco friendly company list

By TimoGunt on 16 Feb 2011

agreed with SwissMac

"It's amazing how few companies take their social responsibilities this seriously"

It’s amazing how few companies take their social responsibilities this seriously.. when it’s such an easy way to score cheap image points and only affects someone else’s profit margins. They need to take a leaf or two out of Apple’s marketing handbook!

By TerabitTerry on 16 Feb 2011

their social responsibilities this seriously

... but not seriously enough to move operations to a country that doesn't need it's factories to be audited for the working conditions independently

By greemble on 16 Feb 2011

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