Taipei/San Fransisco: Apple Inc. said a Chinese labour agent forged documents on behalf of underage workers as the world’s most-valuable firm seeks to improve conditions at suppliers making iPhones, iPads and Macs.
The electronics firm also stopped doing business with a manufacturer that employed 74 people younger than 16 who used the faked papers, according to its annual Supplier Responsibility Report released on Friday. The recruiter was reported to provincial authorities, fined and had its licence suspended.
“Underage labour is a subject no firm wants to be associated with; so, as a result, I don’t believe it gets the attention it deserves, and as a result it doesn’t get fixed like it should,” Jeff Williams, Cupertino, California-based Apple’s senior vice president of operations, said in an interview.
Apple, which joined the Fair Labor Association last year after being criticized for working conditions at suppliers including Foxconn Technology Group, said it doubled the number of employees trained in worker rights, laws and safety. The designer of iPads and iPhones also said it started doing environmental audits and cooperated with a China group that had criticized its record.
A total of 158 facilities globally lacked proper procedures or didn’t perform adequate audits of their own suppliers, according to the report.
The investigation found that Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources Developing Co., a Shenzhen-based labour broker with an office in Henan, had cooperated with families to forge documents allowing the children to get past age-verification procedures, according to Apple. Shenzhen Quanshun’s manager Wu Yong denied involvement.
“We have to deal with so many workers every day; how could we have time to forge verification documents?” he said. The company’s Henan affiliate was de-registered in October, according to the provisional government’s online registry.
Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co., which supplied circuit-board components, had its business with Apple terminated after an audit in January last year found underage workers, according to the report. Wan Xiaocheng, deputy general manager at the supplier’s parent Guangdong Real Faith Enterprises declined to comment.
“Given the high turnover rate in the factories and the production pressure in the peak season, the factories may not strictly comply with labour laws and the code of conduct,” said Debby Chan, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour.
Apple decided to name the firms to highlight the systemic problem of labour agencies recruiting underage workers, Williams said. The firm also is identifying those agents to its suppliers. Bloomberg
Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong contributed to this story.