back to article Apple uncovers child workers in its plants

Apple has found children were hired to help build some of its products, with one employer in its Mac, iPod and iPhone supply chain falsifying records. Three facilities were found to have hired 11 workers aged 15 in countries where the minimum work age is 16, as part of the annual audit of companies adhering its supplier code …

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  1. ZenCoder
    Thumb Up

    Thumbs up for Apple.

    It looks like they are being very responsible and proactive, rather than wait until they get some bad press and then only do a superficial review.

    1. Gabor Laszlo
      Thumb Down

      Translation:

      "in countries where the minimum work age is 16"

      Using child labor is SOP, they just do it in countries where it happens to be legal.

      "workers paying excessive recruitment fees"

      I wonder what is "excessive" by their Code. An arm and _both_ legs?

      "non-certified vendors for the disposal of hazardous waste"

      Their production process is too dirty for most 'civilized' countries.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Agreed

      It would seem that the risk of child labor is somewhat of a "normal" business risk in some countries. Good on Apple for dealing with it professionally.

      It is a shame that the kids only got discovered when they were finally of legal age, but I don't think you can fault Apple for not trying.

    3. J 3
      Pirate

      RE: Thumbs up for Apple.

      Well, sort of. Much better that they are doing this than if they were not, of course.

      But the slap on the wrist, don't do it again, bad boy!, "punishment" is quite ridiculous, I think. Oh, so the kids are now over 16, so that's fine that they had been working there for years to increase Apple's profit. Something does not compute morally in this whole story.

      It would be even better if Apple (and others) were not having their products made in countries that allow that type of situation -- and the law means little. But then Apple wouldn't be able to compete and profit, so all be damned.

    4. Gordon Pryra
      Jobs Horns

      @zencoder

      I’m guessing they don't want kids because they aren’t allowed to use electronic shocks on them when they ask for decent working conditions in case of bad press over little charred corpses.

    5. lglethal Silver badge
      FAIL

      partially agree...

      Its good that they've done the audit but by the sounds of the result all they've done is send the managers for "some more training" (read: a jolly) and written some more powerpoint presentations.

      A company like Apple derives its position not just from its pretty products but by being able to (at least pretend) its a socially responsible manufacturer. Therefore, any breach should have a clear disincentive.

      The hiring of 3 kids at 15 instead of 16 is not such a big deal to me, the falsifying of records is what needs to be punished! And you have to remember these were just the falsified records they found, i guarantee there were dozens more that were not found... All this has done is teach those companies how to hide their records better, and how to produce better fakes...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        To be fair...

        It's a heck of a lot more than the others seem to be doing. Apple aren't known for transparency, but at least they are in this instance. You are absolutely right of course, more than a slap on the wrist is required.

        1. PirateSlayer
          Thumb Down

          Quantify?

          Can you quantify "others"? Relativism doesn't lessen the offence.

          A slap on the wrist for using child labour is pretty unforgivable.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make them like USA

    Children should be in gated, high-fenced schools learning proper subjects about STDs, all the different drugs, how to say no to knife and gun crime, gangs, anti-bullying and holocaust studies like wot they done in America.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Partially agree

      But I would hope it is with a school system like the US, which ensures from time to time kids who don't fit into the 2 or 3 main groups feel compelled to arm themselves to the teeth and gun down their "fellow"students and teachers.

      Canada is disappointing in this regard...similar levels of gun ownership but considerably less of these kinds of violent episodes. Canada needs to develop a stronger sense of "you're either with us, or you're going to buy a long leather coat like a vampire movie cliché and kill us" mentality.

      Back on topic...whilst I generally loathe Apple's self-congratulatory approach, I think their efforts to ensure their products are produced by a legal workforce are laudable. Won't succeed every time, but one gets the feeling they do genuinely try.

  3. Thomas 18
    Jobs Halo

    17 violations of the core principles underlying its supplier code of conduct

    1. Failing to attend daily worship (of the great Jobs)

    2. Failing to spend at least 50% income on apple products

    3. Painting any factory surface in a colour other than White

    4. Failing to clean all surfaces 3 times a day

    5. Consuming more than 1 bite of an apple or more than 10 bites of any other citrus fruit

    6. Suggesting function over form to a superior

    7. Considering function over form

    8. Failure to turn up for organ harvesting

    9. Purchasing, owning or speaking to a windows user or microsoft product endorser (henceforth known as non-persons)

    10-17 are classified and require managerial status or a donation of £50,000 to access.

    1. Ascylto
      Alert

      Child(ish) labour

      Considering the subject matter, your response says a lot about your mindset. Indeed, according to Apple's stated principles, you are definitely under-age, if not under the bridge.

  4. Raymond Cranfill
    Jobs Horns

    just a slap on the wrist

    apple should have a zero tolerance policy with regard to gross violations of its company "code of conduct." it should have simply terminated its contracts with any manufacturer employing child labor, it's margins could certainly take the transitory hit. this way it sends a message that it so called code means nothing, so long as you say "sorry guv, won't happen again."

    1. chr0m4t1c
      Stop

      Perhaps

      But what if those hired were 15 years and 10 months old when they started?

      And what about the other people who work in the factory and have done nothing wrong?

      You could be asking Apple to completely destroy an area economically simply because of some minor rule bending.

      I hope you would want the same treatment for wherever you work, i.e. have the whole place close because someone in HR broke a local employment law.

      Yes, those involved should be disciplined, but to punish hundreds or even thousands (local traders, etc) of people for the actions of two or three is somewhat excessive.

      1. Rob
        Unhappy

        More to the point

        You can't ask Apple to shut down one of it's main production runs and forsake some profit just because some 3rd world factory doesn't conform to the same standards where the Apple HQ is based.

        Let's face it, Apple are in less of a position to do something about it than people think, it's got nothing to do with Jobs, it's all about the shareholders. The attitude is more like "a few kids don't matter so why kill a chunk of profit, run a few reports, do a bit of investigating and tell everyone not to get caught again".

  5. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    So what?

    "Three facilities were found to have hired 11 workers aged 15 in countries where the minimum work age is 16,..."

    Holy cow, I was expecting some nasty child exploitation article conjuring images of appalling sweat-shop conditions containing 5-year olds or worse scrabbling under machines catching scraps of wool and linen like that common during the industrial revolution.

    So we have some guys at 15 making out they're 16 to do some iPod assembly and this is supposed to shock us? How the world has changed....

    1. PirateSlayer
      Stop

      Where?

      Where does it say that these kids lied about their age?

      I only read that they were hired...not that they had lied.

  6. darren.b
    Jobs Horns

    High prices?

    And here was me thinking Apple charged the earth for their overhyped glossy products because they were built in developed countries paying real workers real wages.

    Ah.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Exploitation starts at home!!

    Bring those underage jobs back to the US!

  8. jake Silver badge

    Audited?

    "Apple audited 102 companies in 2009, up from 83 the previous year, in China, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and the US."

    No doubt an "ISO approved" audit, instead of actually looking at the reality of low-cost third-world manufacturing ... Keep turning a blind eye, Apple. Karma's a bitch.

    App^H^Hssholes.

  9. Joe 3

    It all sounds too good to be true...

    ...are they really such saints? Reading the PDF, they sound like Rosa Luxemburg!

    It's good that this sort of stuff is discussed, rather than swept under the rug.

    I wonder how they can guarantee freedom of association and collective bargaining in China, where unions, except the state-sponsored one, is illegal?

  10. blackworx
    Thumb Up

    "Warning: PDF"

    I like it

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    didn't they stop to wonder

    when setting up they plant in a third world country, chosen specifically because it's lax labour laws make it cheap, that this sort of thing might be going on?

    1. Avi 1

      re: Didn't they stop to wonder?

      At a guess, yes. Hence them feeling the need to check up on it...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Didn't you stop to read?

      The term Third World countries is rather old-fashioned and many feel rather meaningless, particularly after the end of the Cold War and that developing country is a more appropriate term for many nations who would – and I’m not sure whether countries like China view themselves a ‘Third World’ country.

      However, that aside, Apple didn’t set up these plants – these are just suppliers and in many cases, Apple wouldn’t be the only customers. If you bother to look at page 16, there’s a list of the sort of things Apple was checking (e.g. occupational safety rights) – are you saying that some suppliers should be held to lower standards because of the county they’re in?

  12. Richard Jukes

    How else?

    How else are the iPod Nano's put together? Only kids have small enough fingers to do the work!

  13. Adam Foxton
    Gates Halo

    Apple:

    It kills its employees

    It's unsuitable for use in hospitals

    It uses child labour

    Microsoft really aren't going to have a problem coming up with material for their next marketing campaign, are they?

  14. Robert E A Harvey
    Big Brother

    Obvous when you think about it

    In most families it is only the under-7s who know how to use the pvr or set the clock on the microwave. Persumably, therefore, they are the age range perfectly suited to molish them.

    My big brother is really really big

  15. David Neil

    I haven't read the full report but...

    Have they actually taken any action, other than name & shame?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Do other companies audit like Apple???

    Good for Apple!

    Do other companies perform audits, like Apple?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Duh.

    They're making their kit using cheap labour in developing countries which have virtually no safety standards and in many cases a proven dismal human rights record; the fact that they're exploiting the workforce is exactly what anyone with half a brain would expect to be happening. That's one of the main reasons it's so cheap to make stuff there in the first place.

    Perhaps if they'd spent some of their $8.24billion profits on making their hardware in an ethical fashion they wouldn't have been in this situation.

  18. Matt 13
    Joke

    title...

    well, as everyone knows, apple products are feats of miniturisation, adult hands are just too big to consistently build these products!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Good for Apple

    I wish Walmart would do this. And Nike. And every other large corporation for that matter.

  20. James O'Brien
    Joke

    HAH

    "Apple said the child workers are now of legal age, but the plants had been asked to provide a complete analysis of hiring processes to "clarify how underage people had been able to gain employment" and also develop management policies to ensure the practice doesn't happen again."

    Need child laborers to meet a deadline? Theres an App for that.

    "Overall, Apple said its audit uncovered 17 violations of the core principles underlying its supplier code of conduct. These included workers paying excessive recruitment fees and an incident where the supplier had used non-certified vendors for the disposal of hazardous waste."

    .....only 17? Really? Wouldve sworn there would have been more seeing as all are made in China.

    @Thomas 18

    ROFL nice list :)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Main stream press are getting it all wrong

    I saw this in the Daily Mail today. Typically they are headlining that Apple are using Child labour. They have completely missed the fact that Apple is against this and are working to prevent it. This should be a story about how well large corporations are working to tackle the problem but typical sensationalism in the Daily Fail are using it to hit at Apple.

    To be expected i suppose. Sigh.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Child labour explains...

    ...how they are able to produce products more cheaply than the competition.

  23. Rolf Howarth

    Child labour

    The more difficult moral question might be to ask what would these children be doing instead of working in a factory... if the alternative is living on the street, "protecting" them from relatively well paid work in a factory might not actually be doing them any favours.

  24. Jason Sheldon
    Thumb Down

    Ok, so now they know...

    but what are they going to do about the manufacturers? Halt business, or just rub their hands together?

  25. Head
    Stop

    Ha

    Apple have known this for quite some time, and always turn a blind eye to it.

    What ever brings in the most profit is best.

    1. Mike Hanna
      Jobs Horns

      Really?

      How do you know that?

      Apple - "We've discovered some underage workers and this is terrible and we've dealt with it so that it never happens again"

      Press - "YOU HAVE UNDERAGE WORKERS!!"

      Apple - "Er... yeah... *we* just told *you* that. We're showing you how nice we are in dealing with such issues"

      Press - "YOU DESERVE TO BURN IN HELL!"

      Evil Jobs cos how f*cking dare Apple run these audits and post the reults?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    This from an American company

    Unions = satan

    Fair pay = un-American

    Decent conditions = unheard of

  27. Tondalicious

    Legal?

    It's actually legal to work from the age of 15 in the Czech Republic. Don't see any problem with that although I doubt they had any 15 year olds working in the Czech factories...

  28. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Worldwide 11 of their workers aged 15 lied about their age to get a job?

    In the First and Second World Wars it was considered admirable to lie about your age and join the armed forces and be killed. How different from today.

  29. mulder
    FAIL

    if this is made public imagine the truth

    Often with these incidents (if you can cal them that) what is made public is only the pr version and the truth is mutch worse.

  30. Alan B
    FAIL

    For a company selling the most expensive...

    ...computerised gizmos in the world, you'd think they would have their stuff manufactured in humane environments anyway, instead of in sweatshops where the workers are paid barely enough to feed themselves. let alone feed their families.

    The reason children have to work in those places is so the whole family can afford to eat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Have a read of Barry's post...

      What utter, utter clap-trap! Look at this through rational eyes for once! Let's look at some facts shall we, Al? Apple are NOT the "most expensive". In general, their products are within £50 to £100 or less of the nearest competitor, and are £50 to £100 or less below the competitors price as often as they are above. They simply do not compete at the bottom of the market and looking at their financial results over the last couple of years, it's a good strategy, with Apple performing significantly better than Dell or HP. The other fact that should be taken into consideration is that Apple appear to be the only one of the big manufacturers that proactively monitor their suppliers. They use many of the same suppliers that their competitors use; Foxconn, Samsung etc. Judging by the report (you did actually *read* the report before you started pontificating from your high horse, didn't you?) these are not sweatshops at all. I actually go further and say that anyone that has the slightest inkling of manufacturing processes would understand that the very nature of the products being produced dictates that the Gap/Nike style "sweatshop" we have seen previously just aren't feasible in this market!

      As for your pay concers, page 19 of the document sets out Apples position clearly; they found that some of their suppliers were underpaying, so Apple have demanded that employees that were underpaid were reimbursed in full and system put in place so that this will not occur again. Those that had not paid statutory benefits were also told to reimburse those employees in full. To those that had deductions as 'fines' for disciplinary action, Apple have said that they (Apple) cannot comment on the local legality of this, but they do not condone this course of action and have insisted that it is stopped.

      I hear the argument for bringing those jobs back (?) to the West, but reading into it, Apple fully intend to make sure that their suppliers play by the rules, and are willing to do it openly. Condemn them for being contol freaks, by all means, but in this instance I think that it's not such a bad thing. It is unfortunate and regrettable that workers have died at these factories and plants, as El Reg has previously pointed out, BUT those suppliers supply other big manufactures too, not just Apple! So please, credit where it is due; put away the ABA stick and encourage the rest of the industry to follow suit, or even *better* them...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    what did you expect?

    Boy's Toys - made by Boys...........

  32. Barry Lane 1
    WTF?

    Wow! This is weird.

    El Reg does a story about Apple learning that one of its umpteen suppliers had employed kids, then all the Windoze fanbois use that actually quite positive story to vent their juvenile collective spleen at Apple.

    How puerile are you guys, really? The company, like its products or not, does something that was better than doing nothing, but you pour out your frustration at being stuck with MS and accuse Apple of employing child labour. How many companies that make products for MS-based products currently employ children? Just because they don't tell you doesn't mean it ain't happening.

    You really ought to turn off those ridiculous beige boxes and get out a little more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree

      Apple sucks

  33. JeffShortland
    Megaphone

    Actually..

    It's legal to work in MANY countries under the age of 16, and I mean developed industrial and technologically leading countires at that. I know even in "don't step on anyone's toes" canada, 14/15 is fine, so long as you have a note from the 'rents saying that it is OK.

    Mind you, not all employers will hire you based on that alone, there are other considerations - type of job, risks involved, WCB coverage, etc. But if you want a simple retail or call center job, it's not hard to nab, as you're not covered for workplace injury anyways.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Say again?

    Read that as "Apple uncovers child workers in its pants" - thought to meself "strange place to keep children but Jobs is Jobs so it's probably a trend". Gonna check out the coffee maker - must be serving decaf again...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Me too

      Must be Monday.

  35. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Naughty facts... Naughty, NAUGHTY facts!! No cookie!

    Not that I ecpect this to actually have any effect on the Pavlovian Apple-bashers, here, but engadget had a couple of interesting points to add about this story:

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/02/27/apple-supplier-audit-reveals-sub-minimum-wage-pay-and-records-of?icid=sphere_blogsmith_inpage_engadget

    "(...) Apple is, predictably, not jazzed about the situation, and has taken action through train-the-trainer schemes, threats of business termination with recidivist plants, and -- most notably -- the recovery of $2.2 million in recruitment fees that international contract workers should not have had to pay.

    "It should come as no shock to learn that cheaper overseas factories are cutting illegal corners, but it's disappointing to hear Apple's note that most of the 102 audited manufacturers said Cupertino was the only vendor to perform such rigorous compliance checks."

    So, it SOUNDS like the supplier companies are on probation and the recruiters are getting hit in the wallet... a fairly measured approach...

    Now, yes -- Apple said that their suppliers claimed that they were the only buyers being that rigorous in their checks, so the claim should be taken with a grain of salt. And I'm sure that HP, Lenovo, Dell and every other PC maker will be publishing their own audits within the next few days to prove that they are, in fact, being at least as strict with their suppliers as Apple is.

    Perhaps anyone who DOESN'T publish their most recent annual supplier audit should be asked exactly WHY they're not.

  36. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Why Not?

    For that makes toys, is it not appropriate to hire children?

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