Friday, September 06, 2013

Apple, iPhone 5C manufacturing partner both respond quickly to allegations of worker abuse

Both Apple and Jabil Circuit, the alleged manufacturer of its still-to-be-officially-confirmed budget iPhone, the iPhone 5C, have responded (via AllThingsD) to allegations that Jabil has participated in "a series of ethical and legal labor violations." China Labor Watch reported the violations on Thursday.

Apple, already having experienced the heat over prior accusations for its other partners, including Foxconn and Pegatron, was quick to respond that same day. It released the following statement:
Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain. We lead the industry with far-reaching and specialized audits, the most transparent reporting and educational programs that enrich the lives of workers who make our products. Apple is the first and only technology company to be admitted to the Fair Labor Association, and we are dedicated to protecting every worker in our supply chain.

As part of our extensive Supplier Responsibility program, Apple has conducted 14 comprehensive audits at Jabil facilities since 2008, including three audits of Jabil Wuxi in the past 36 months. We take any concerns about our suppliers very seriously, and our team of experts is on-site at Jabil Wuxi to look into the new claims about conditions there. Jabil has a proactive auditing program of their own and they have an excellent track record of meeting Apple’s high standards.

Employees at Jabil are among the 1 million workers in Apple’s supply chain whose working hours we track each week and report on our website. Year to date, Jabil Wuxi has performed above our 92% average for compliance with Apple’s 60-hour per week limit. An audit completed earlier this year did find that some employees had worked more than six consecutive days without a day of rest, and Jabil has been working with our team to better manage overtime.

We are proud of the work we do with our suppliers to improve conditions for workers. Our program goes far beyond monitoring by ensuring corrective actions where they are needed and aggressively enforcing our supplier code of conduct wherever Apple products are made. We believe in transparency and accountability, both for our suppliers and ourselves.
Although lesser-known than Apple's major manufacturing arms, Foxconn and Pegatron, Jabil has been working with Apple for some time. Nearly as quickly -- or quicker -- than Apple, the company issued its own statement:
Jabil is committed to ensuring every employee is provided a safe working environment where they are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. We take seriously any allegation that we are not fulfilling that commitment and are taking immediate action to ensure recent allegations are thoroughly investigated and, if found to be credible, corrected.

In August, Eric Austermann, Jabil’s Vice President of Social Responsibility, was in China conducting audits at our facilities, including Jabil Wuxi. Jabil conducts more than 100 annual audits of its operations, assessing them on a broad range of items, including health and safety, employee treatment, and overtime. Some issues cited in the report were surfaced in that audit and corrective action was immediately started. Our focus on continuous auditing — by internal, independent third parties, and customers — is why we are able to surface issues and also why we are continuously improving.

We are troubled by recent allegations related to excessive overtime, unpaid overtime, and working conditions at our Wuxi, China site. An audit team is en route to Wuxi to thoroughly investigate these claims. While we are aware of the desire of many employees to work overtime, our goal is to regulate overtime to achieve a consistently high level of compliance with Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) standards. Other allegations, such 10-minute unpaid meeting times, were surfaced during Austermann’s audit in August and corrective action was begun.

The well being of our employees is our priority. In the last three years, Jabil has elevated Social and Environmental Responsibility to an executive-level position reporting directly to Jabil’s Chief Operating Officer. We have also developed Global Dormitory Standards, a global policy prohibiting pregnancy testing, and a policy stipulating 18 as the minimum age for employment. We have also engaged a leading consultant to train Environmental, Health and Safety employees to better assess, recognize and control process hazards.

We are disheartened that there are allegations that we are not living up to our own standards, yet we are proud of the progress we’ve made in ensuring every Jabil employee is treated with dignity and respect and provided the opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Issues with offshored manufacturing -- while already exposed in the garment industry -- first came to light with regard to Apple when the New York Times wrote an expose in January of 2012.

Following that article, Apple became the first tech company to join the Fair Labor Association, and asked the FLA to conduct audits of its Chinese partners. While issues were found, and remedies promised, it seems that there are still major problems, and not just in the Apple end of the swimming pool.

In late July, China Labor Watch cited a similar set of violations involving Pegatron. Ironically, it is said that Pegatron is also manufacturing the iPhone 5C.

No comments: