Apple bans ‘bonded servitude’ in its vast supply chain

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Apple
Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

What if you had to pay a month’s wages up front just to get a job?

It’s a concept that’s largely foreign to Western culture, but bonded servitude is still rampant in other parts of the world, namely Asia. That also happens to be where much of Apple’s supply chain is located, and starting today the company is cracking down on the corrupt practice.

When a hot product like the newest iPhone needs to be made overseas, factories will often use outside recruiters to bring in extra workers. Many of these workers are charged fees for getting the job, sometimes exceeding over a months’ pay.

“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,” said Jeff Williams, Apple senior vice president of operations, in an interview with Bloomberg. “We just don’t want the worker to absorb that.”

Sometimes workers’ passports will be held by the recruiter until the contract with the supplier is finished, according to Williams.

The United Nations has declared debt bondage to be a form of “modern day slavery.” While not as extreme as the Indian indenture system, what’s taking place in Apple’s supply chain “is in essence bonded servitude,” said Williams.

Apple’s most recent audit found that 92% of its 1.1 million supply chain workers are compliant with its 60-hour work week limit. While Apple had previously said that workers couldn’t be slapped with fees over a month’s pay, the company is now demanding that workers pay nothing.

You can check out Apple’s dedicated webpage for more information on its supply chain checks. The company’s full supply responsibility report for 2015 is available online now in PDF format.

Source: Bloomberg