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Apple cuts ties with supplier after audit reveals 74 cases of underage labor

apple factory (apple)

Apple has just released its seventh annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, which shows that the company is prepared to cut off suppliers for being lax on underage labor. Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics (PZ) was found to have 74 violations over the course of the year, and was summarily axed. The company reports that one of the region's biggest staffing firms, Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources, was responsible for supplying the children to PZ, going so far as to help families forge age verification documents. Overall, 11 facilities were found to have employed underage workers, including 106 active cases and 70 historical cases of the practice.

Foxconn is on track to meet the FLA's recommendations by July 1st of this year

Apple

Last year's report was notable for shining a spotlight on the use of underage labor by Apple's suppliers, leading Apple to join the FLA, which also now conducts separate, independent audits for the company. The new report notes that Foxconn is on track to meet the FLA's recommendations by July 1st of this year.

Bonded labor is another Apple supplier issue that has gained attention, and the company reports it's working to put a stop to the practice, by which foreign workers are made to pay inordinate recruiting fees to firms in their home countries. For 2012, Apple is reporting that eight facilities were found to have bonded labor, and those suppliers were made to pay out any fees that totaled more than one month's net wages. Those payments totaled $6.4 million; the equivalent of monthly wages for about 22,000 entry-level Foxconn employees.

Last year's report also increased scrutiny of Apple's manufacturing practices more broadly, prompting a video report by ABC News which saw a reporter inside a Foxconn factory with Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook has repeatedly stressed that improving labor practices is a priority for Apple, and by the end of last year, The New York Times concluded that a lot of positive headway had been made. The 2013 report states that 393 total audits were performed in 2012; 72 percent more than the company had the previous year. It also points out that the 60-hour ceiling for overtime is being complied with in 92 percent of cases.

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In the past, Apple supplier Foxconn has drawn fire for alleged abuses related to its use of student employees and internship programs, including reports of compulsory manufacturing work, and Apple says it's buckling down here as well. In 2013, it is going to start requiring that suppliers provide the number of student workers, along with their school affiliations so that it can track the issue more closely itself.

Unlike 2012, there were no major or 'core' safety violations

From the perspective of health and safety, violations of Apple's ergonomics requirements seem to be the most widespread problem for suppliers. Only 59 percent of audits were found to be in compliance with Apple's policy. That compares with roughly 80 percent compliance in many other areas, such as prevention of chemical exposure, and safety procedures and systems. Occupational injury prevention was lower, at 70 percent. While there were a few changes year-over-year, overall compliance remained unchanged from 2012's figure of 76 percent. Unlike 2012, however there were no major or "core" safety violations, like explosions resulting from combustible dust.

Lastly, 2012 saw a big increase in the number of focused environmental audits — the company performed 55, a 293 percent increase over the previous year's figure. This resulted in a few significant changes, notably, 147 facilities were found to have problems with how they stored, moved, or, handled hazardous chemicals; up nearly a third from 112 the previous year. And while overall compliance remained the same year-to-year, there was a significant decrease in the number of core environmental violations — from four in 2011 to just one last year.

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