Eight months after the suicides of 14 laborers at Foxxconn’s Shenzhen factory in China, information is surfacing that Apple’s supply chain is still fraught with human rights violations.
In its own audit, Apple found bribery, underage workers, chemical-related health problems, and falsifications of ID’s and payroll documents.
In 18 facilities Apple’s audit revealed a system in which workers were made to pay recruitment fees that bonded them to a modern-day indentured servitude. In these cases, workers passed through a network of hiring agencies to attain employment. Subagencies would recruit workers from villages in places like Vietnam or Cambodia, and pass them from agency to agency until factories hired them in Taiwan, Malaysia, or Singapore. “By the time the worker has paid all fees across these agencies, the total cost can equal many months’ wages, forcing workers into debt to gain employment,” according to the audit.
Auditors also found 10 factories that hired workers under the age of 16, which is the youngest age for employment in China. Underage hires totaled 91 across all factories. In many instances, managers at the factories were unaware that the laborers hired were underage. Recruitment is often funneled through agencies and vocational colleges which provide false identifications to those who need the work.
Auditors also unearthed four instances in which factories falsified payroll documents to reflect higher wage payouts to workers.
While Apple has taken most of the heat from grim practices in overseas factories, it is commendable that it publishes the findings. The audit noted that Apple ceased business relations with several plants that would not comply. In addition, the company shelled out $3.4 million to help educate workers who had been injured or exploited on the job. In comparison to Apple’s revenue reports, $3.4 million wanes. But at least it’s something. If anything, the audit should make us wonder–what are the conditions in the plants of other tech firms, which are less transparent, less rich, and haven’t yet been drug into the spotlight for human rights abuses?