Child labour, lost wages uncloaked by Apple factories audit

$3.3m handed out to underpaid iMakers

Apple has for the first time released a complete list of its suppliers [PDF], publishing the names of 156 companies who make the parts for everything from Macbook screens to iPad covers.

The list includes well-publicised contracts, such as Apple's mega deals with Samsung and LG, as well as more obscure deals with smaller companies such as Japanese bicycle-makers Shimano Inc, and Gruppo Peretti, an Italian leather company. The 156 companies represent 97 per cent of Apple's total spend on manufacturing.

Foxconn is Apple's best-known manufacturing partner, holding the contract for assembling the iPhone and currently much of the iPad production. However rumours in the channel suggest that Apple will divert some of its growing iPad business away from Foxconn towards rival Chinese manufacturers Pegatron.

Child labour and 7-day weeks

Concerns about worker treatment appear to have motivated Apple to make a more thorough audit of its supplier chain in the past year. Incidents such as a threatened mass suicide at a Foxconn factory two weeks ago produced bad media coverage for Cupertino and Foxconn's other customers, including Microsoft.

Although Apple publishes a supplier audit every year, with few exceptions these documents do not name specific companies. The 2012 audit report [PDF], which claims 80 per cent more inspections of its factories were carried out in 2011 than in 2010, took a more detailed look at worker safety and the environment.

At 93 of the 229 factories audited, workers were found to be working longer than Apple's permitted 60-hour, six-day maximum week.

Forty-two facilities had payment practice violations, including delayed wages payments, and 108 did not pay proper overtime wages. There were five places that were found to employ underage labourers. This year's audit resulted in a total of $3.3m being dished out to foreign contract workers who had been underpaid for their labour.

During the inspections, an Apple official checked factory-run dormitories and dining areas as well as manufacturing facilities. The trendy tech titan says that it also carried out surprise audits as well as regular yearly ones. The report also added that Apple would open its factories to independent inspection by "the [Fair Labor Association's] independent auditing team, who will measure our suppliers’ performance against the FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct".

"We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made," Apple announced in the report: "If manufacturers don’t live up to our standards, we stop working with them." ®

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