Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Apple bans bonded labour practices

March 2015

Apple, the US technology multinational regarded as the world’s biggest company, has banned bonded labour and servitude, under which new employees are charged fees on recruitment.

The company has ruled that the fees must be paid by suppliers, such as employment agencies, not employees.

Third-party recruiters are known on occasions to demand a month’s salary so that the employee is immediately in debt. Some employees are even forced to surrender their passports.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice-president of operations, said: “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.”

The decision follows an exposé by the BBC Panorama programme showing recruits handing over identity cards at Apple’s Pegatron factory in China in breach of the company rules.

Pegatron appeared too in a report from the workers’ rights group China Labor Watch focusing on low wages at Apple.

The report said the multinational could not monitor standards in parts of its supply chain, so companies such as Pegatron could get away with paying unrealistic wages.

Apple’s labour problems in China were originally highlighted in 2010 when 14 workers at Foxconn, its biggest supplier, killed themselves. The suicides were blamed partly on long hours, harsh conditions and low pay.

Another Apple pledge is to continue shunning conflict minerals, which are sold to finance suspect military action, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Apple reported that last year it more than doubled the number of verified conflict-free smelts to 135. About 60 more are under review.

And at the beginning of the year Apple reported the biggest quarterly profit ever made by a public company.

Apple | Global | Human rights

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