Apple Vows to End Bonded Labor in Its Supply Chain
Overseas factories' "bonded servitude" practice is ending—at least for Apple suppliers, the company announced in its 2015 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report.
The practice forced new employees to pay a fee of sometimes more than a month's salary just for being introduced to the factory through a third-party recruiter, according to BBC. Many employees were in debt, and some had their passports confiscated until they paid off the debt.
In 2014, Apple forced suppliers to reimburse $3.96 million in excess fees (aka more than a month's pay, according to BBC) to more than 4,500 foreign contract workers, according to Apple's report. Since Apple's program debuted, suppliers returned $20.96 million to 30,000 foreign contract workers. In order to end this bonded labor, Apple informed suppliers in October that no worker employed on an Apple line could be charged recruitment fees starting in 2015. Those who violate it will be forced to pay back the money to its workers.
“That fee needs to be paid by the supplier, and Apple ultimately bears that fee when we pay the supplier and we’re OK doing that,” Jeff Williams, Apple senior vice president of operations, told BBC. “We just don’t want the worker to absorb that.”
Aside from ending bonded labor, Apple aims to halt child labor and exploitation of student workers. The company also boasted that it had reached 92 percent compliance for limiting workweeks to 60 hours. It requires one day of mandated rest and voluntary overtime as well.
China Labor Watch has been a constant critic of Apple. On Wednesday—the same day Apple released its report—the nonprofit labor-rights group criticized Apple for its low labor costs and poor conditions at two of its major Chinese manufacturer factories, Foxconn and Pegatron.
"You’ll also see that we consistently report suppliers’ violations of our standards," Williams said in the report. "People sometimes point to the discovery of problems as evidence that our process isn’t working. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every violation we unearthed in the 633 supplier audits we conducted last year offered an opportunity to make concrete changes for the better."