Apple suppliers abuse workers' rights

Apple said at least eleven children have been working in its far-eastern factories making its plastic toys.

Most of Apple's kit is made in China, where labour is cheap and regulation dubious. Apple hasn't said where the kids - aged 15 - were working but does say they've grown up now.

According to its own annual report on Supplier Responsibility (pdf), "Apple discovered three facilities that had previously hired 15-year-old workers in countries where the minimum age for employment is 16. Across the three facilities, our auditors found records of 11 workers who had been hired prior to reaching the legal age, although the workers were no longer under-age or no longer in active employment at the time of our audit."

The firm said it then "required each facility to develop and institute appropriate management systems - such as more thorough ID checks and verification procedures - to prevent future employment of under-age workers."

The firm said it had dumped one supplier for falsifying records after it emerged that some employees were working seven days a week. Apple said it sets a "maximum of 60 work hours per week and requires at least one day of rest per seven days of work, while allowing exceptions in unusual or emergency circumstances."

According to its own figures, of 102 supplier facilities, some 13 per cent are not in compliance with "fair treatment practices", 17 per cent lack anti-discrimination practices. Some 20 per cent do not prevent "involuntary labour". Only 74 per cent have juvenile worker protections.

In fact, the list is pretty long and pretty damning. Over 40 per cent do not have occupational injury prevention management systems in place; over 30 per cent do not have management systems in place to prevent chemical exposure, not do they have hazardous substance management systems in place. A quarter do not manage air emissions and only 57 per cent are compliant with environmental permits and reporting.

Apple said it found "44 facilities that lacked a complete environmental impact assessment. Some of these facilities were missing assessments in one or more areas of the Environmental Impact section of our Code or did not update their assessments after a process or equipment change."

It also "found facilities that had not obtained legally required permits or failed to adhere to operating requirements of the permits. For example, 11 facilities did not have permits for air emissions, and four others did not meet the operating conditions specified in the permit for air emissions. "

Apple said it asked those companies not complying in all these areas to start doing so.

Meanwhile, in short, your iPod or iPhone is probably made by some poor kid working in close to slave labour conditions. You might like to bear this in mind.