Given its needs to interact with a multitude of suppliers from materials acquisition to assembly, Apple’s supply chain record has been streaky in the past. When a 2012 New York Times article relayed accusations of labor violations at multiple Apple affiliated suppliers in China, the public relations crisis prompted Apple to evaluate its practices. As a result, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and created its Supplier Responsibility program. Apple lead analysis earlier this year showed promising trends in plant conditions and treatment of workers at various points in its supply chain, However, new analysis conducted by the FLA and rleased on Aug. 15, shows issues in a number of areas.
The review targeted two facilities operated by Quanta Computer in Shanghai and Changshu, China. Over the course of a multi-day observation period, FLA found a compliance issues ranging from recruitment and overtime policies to health and safety violations. While the FLA holds its member companies to a high standard, it is not a regulatory body, and therefore can only offer remediation suggestions rather than fines.
The FLA alleges that employees of the both operations were charged to start working , a policy it denounces as predatory. “Eighty percent of workers interviewed at the Shanghai facility and three percent of the workers interviewed at the Changshu facility reported being charged a hiring fee by a broker or labor dispatch agent,” the report says.
In addition to charging laborers a fee to work, FLA probes also found issues concerning the environments workers were subject to. Neither of the operations had completed Material Safety Data sheets readily available for workers, and both failed local air quality standards.
You can view the executive summary of the probe here.
While the issues uncovered by the FLA are sure to add to the electronics giant’s supply chain headaches, the company has recently been active in Quanta facilities itself. In response to the FLA probe Apple says that it is committed to addressing the issues, and that “through the end of July, Quanta has averaged 86 percent compliance with our 60-hour workweek. Excessive overtime is not in anyone's best interest, and we will continue to work closely with Quanta and our other suppliers to prevent it.”
The results of the probe underscore how difficult it is for Apple to keep tabs on all points of its supply chain, especially as it moves to expand its manufacturing efforts to accommodate more devices and markets.