Apple can take years to part ways with rule-breaking suppliers, report claims

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Apple's relationship with Foxconn on the rocks
Tim Cook meeting with a worker in the supply chain.
Photo: Apple

Apple can reportedly drag its feet when removing repeat labor violation offenders from its supply chain, a new report from The Information claims.

Cupertino supposedly postpones taking action when it has no other companies lined up to pick up the slack, or in other scenarios that would cause financial damage due to delays or higher costs.

The Information report notes that:

“In interviews, 10 former members of Apple’s supplier responsibility team — the unit in charge of monitoring manufacturing partners for violations of labor, environmental, and safety rules — claimed that Apple avoided or delayed cutting ties with offenders when doing so would hurt its business. For example, the former team members said, Apple continued working with some suppliers that refused to implement safety suggestions or that consistently violated labor laws.”

The article offers one example of a manufacturer, Suyin Electronics, that reportedly used underage labor. Apple told the company to make sure it did not hire anybody under the age of 16. However, an audit three months later found more underage workers. One was only 14 years old. As a result:

“Apple … stopped giving Suyin new business because of the violations. But it took Apple more than three years to fully cut its ties with Suyin. [It] continued to make HDMI, USB and other ports for older MacBooks under previous contracts.”

Recent supply chain violations

Apple has recently faced a number of allegations of violations in its supply chain. Last month, Apple placed Pegatron, one of its largest manufacturing partners, on probation after finding that the company made unauthorized use of students to work overtime and night shifts.

It also removed O’Film Group from its camera module supply chain after the Chinese manufacturer reportedly used forced labor involving marginalized Uighur people. This week Lens Technology, another iPhone supplier, faced similar accusations.

The question is whether these companies will disappear for good from Apple’s supply chain. In some cases, Apple’s wording suggests that no new contracts are being given out. However, that does not necessarily mean it cancels existing contracts.

Apple manufacturing

It’s a tough scenario. Apple diversifies its manufacturing so that, usually, there are multiple companies making components for each of its devices. Nonetheless, bringing new companies on board and getting them up to speed so they’re ready to manufacture at the quantity and quality Apple expects is difficult. This makes it logistically tough to cancel suppliers overnight.

Nonetheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been a big exponent of making the company a “force for good” around the world. This has included cracking down on abusive practices in Apple’s supply chain. Hopefully the company can lead by example here as well.

Source: The Information