Apple has cut ties with a Chinese supplier after an audit found that it had hired a large number of underage employees, according to the company’s latest Supplier Responsibility Report.
Apple received a lot of criticism in previous years about the treatment of workers at China’s Foxconn factories that make many Apple products, so it promised to step up its efforts to create better working environments. In 2012, Apple said that it conducted 393 audits at all levels of its supply chain, which is a 72 percent increase over 2011. The number of workers covered in these audits number more than 1.5 million.
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One of those audits found that Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics had 74 violations for hiring workers under the age of 16, which led to the company getting the ax from Apple. It also went after a Chinese regional labor agency that forged documents to get underage workers hired at factories.
The company writes:
In January 2012, for example, we audited a supplier, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co., Ltd. (PZ) that produces a standard circuit board component used by many other companies in many industries. Our auditors were dismayed to discover 74 cases of workers under age 16—a core violation of our Code of Conduct. As a result, we terminated our business relationship with PZ.
But we didn’t stop there. We also learned that one of the region’s largest labor agencies, Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources Co., Ltd. (Quanshun), which is registered in both the Shenzhen and Henan provinces, was responsible for knowingly providing the children to PZ. In fact, to obtain the workers, this agency conspired with families to forge age verification documents and make the workers seem older than they were.
We also alerted the provincial governments to the actions of Quanshun. The agency had its business license suspended and was fined. The children were returned to their families, and PZ was required to pay expenses to facilitate their successful return. In addition, the company that subcontracted its work to PZ was prompted by our findings to audit its other subcontractors for underage labor violations—proving that one discovery can have far-reaching impact.
Additionally, Apple said that it found no cases of underage labor at any of its final assembly suppliers. Other things Apple said it wants to discourage at partner facilities are unsafe work environments and excessive overtime.
Top photo via Apple