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OM in the News: Apple Again Faces Supplier Labor Violations

September 12, 2014

apple workerApple has once again been accused of poor and unsafe working conditions at one of its factories in China,” writes The Christian Science Monitor (Sept. 4, 2014). A  report compiled by China Labor Watch, which has previously targeted Apple for labor violations, says that a factory in Suqian has violated Chinese laws in addition to violating policies put in place by Apple and its supplier, Catcher Technology. Labor violations at the factory included “excessive overtime work, long work shifts while standing, a lack of occupational safety training and heavy dust in the workplace.” Subsequent investigations, 16 months after the initial investigations, found that working conditions had not improved and, in some cases, had worsened.

The 22 labor violations documented include discriminatory hiring practices, insufficient safety training, and a lack of protective equipment provided to workers handling toxic chemicals. Fire exits were blocked, while flammable alloy dust and shavings filled the air. Working overtime was mandatory for all workers, who were forced to work up to 100 hours of overtime per month, almost 3 times the 36-hour limit prescribed by Chinese law. Apple replies it has sent a team to investigate operations at the factory.

China continues to be Apple’s largest source of suppliers, in addition to being the place where nearly all Apple products are assembled. But factory safety for workers assembling Apple products has come under close scrutiny in recent years. About 150 Chinese workers at Foxconn threatened to commit suicide 2 years ago unless their working conditions were improved. Earlier this year, an Apple audit uncovered human rights violations at different levels of its supply chain, including abuses of migrant laborers and the use of underage workers. In response, Apple has increased supplier audits from 173 in 2012 to 451 last year.

On a separate note, the release of the iPhone 6 this week is expected to add 1% a month to China’s export growth for the rest of 2014.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Why do these supplier problems persist?

2. What more can Apple do?

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Supply Chain Management Research

Andreas Wieland’s supply chain management blog for academics and managers

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