In its Supplier Responsibility Report released Thursday, Apple revealed that it had fired a supplier, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics (PZ), because it had employed 74 workers under 16 years old who used fake papers.
Bloomberg reports that the workers were recruited by Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources Developing Co., which cooperated with the children’s families to forge documents and get around age-verification procedures. The recruiter was reported to the authorities, fined and had its license suspended.
Problem Goes Beyond Apple
PZ manufactures a standard circuit-board component used by many companies in many industries. This is not a problem specific to Apple. But partly due to its high-profile success, Apple has been the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism of its labor practices. And while Apple is certainly not the only hardware company using suppliers with bad labor practices, much of the criticism is well deserved.
In response to the bad publicity Apple got for worker suicides and riots over labor practices at its suppliers, it began naming these companies in its corporate reports last year in order to pressure them through transparency.
Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, told Bloomberg that Apple has decided to name the companies with which it works to highlight bad practices and put pressure on the industry to change. Apple’s number of inspections was up 72% from the year before. It conducted 393 audits covering 1.5 million workers in 14 countries, and 28 of the inspections were surprise visits.
60-Hour Workweek Rankles Workers: They Want More
Apple’s policy mandates a maximum 60-hour work week, but compliance with this policy has been a problem. Especially at Foxconn, Apple’s best-known assembly partner, workers often push for more overtime hours and may quit if they can’t get enough of the lucrative work. But Apple’s inspections and enforcement have pushed compliance with the 60-hour maximum up to 92% of workers surveyed, up from 38% last year.
Consumer electronics are still fraught with ethical problems, but increased coverage and transparency is forcing incremental progress.