Apple Reports Improved Working Conditions along Supply Line

by Matt Klassen on February 14, 2014

It wasn’t that long ago that Apple’s supply chain was found to be rife with employment violations, worker discrimination, and inhumane treatment of employees, a veritable sweat environment that subjected those who made our beloved Apple products to overly-oppressive working conditions. Such damning reports depicting the brutal working conditions prompted the Cupertino Company to take action, with the company tasking the Fair Labor Association to conduct regular audits of the supply line as Apple promised to hold its contractors to higher standards.

Now Apple is flying the “Mission Accomplished” banner, touting its success at improving the working standards across its entire supply chain in a recently released Supplier Responsibility report, one that demonstrates just how far things have come since the reports of inhumane conditions first surfaced several years ago.

But despite my scepticism regarding the veracity of Apple’s own claims (I’m still waiting for some truly independent verification of any marked improvement), I can’t argue that things seem to have improved, yet even the report acknowledges that there is still much yet that needs to be done.

According to Apple’s report, released late last week, the company increased the number of audits along its supply chain to 451 last year, that’s up from 298 the year previous. Those audits were able to take account of the working conditions of nearly 1.5 million workers making our favourite Apple products, and the company has said that it is also working diligently to train workers on their rights, increasing the number of ‘educated’ workers to 3.8 million since 2007.

The audits discovered that Apple’s supply chain best complied with the company’s standards in three key areas: fair treatment of workers (96 percent), freedom of association (99 percent), and prevention of underage labour (97 percent compliance). All in all, marked improvement it would seem on conditions that had workers leaping from buildings in an effort to end the torment.

There are some areas that still need improvement, however, particularly in the areas of worker discrimination. Apple revealed that only 87 percent of the facilities it audited last year complied with the company’s anti-discrimination rules, those requiring companies to hire workers regardless of race, age, gender, and several others categories. Further, the company found a few facilities conducting medical exams (e.g. Pregnancy tests) that further violated such discrimination policies.

All in all, Apple reported that the overall compliance with its laundry list of protection policies stood at 81 percent across its entire supply chain, with some areas still requiring significant improvement. Protection for Juvenile workers (not underage workers mind you) was the area in need of the most improvement, as the report indicated only 73 percent compliance. Most facilities, the audits found, didn’t adhere to Apple’s rules regarding proper health and safety practices for younger workers.

But I have to wonder just how reliable Apple’s own reporting really is, understanding that even the FLA is itself beholden to the Cupertino company and its other clients, not to mention the fact that its unlikely these audits would receive honest feedback from the rank and file workers, given that they know their jobs are on the line should they fail to smile and say how wonderful things are.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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