Apple Cracks Down on Bonded Labor Practices in iPhone Factories

Apple is taking a strong stance against factory workers being forced to pay for the privilege of getting a job. In the iPhone and iPad maker's latest Supplier Responsibility Progress report, the company says employees working in factories that make its products cannot be forced into bonded labor or paying recruitment fees.

Apple sets stricter worker condition guidelines for partner factoriesApple sets stricter worker condition guidelines for partner factories

Apple warned its manufacturing partners in October 2014 that bonded labor wasn't an acceptable practice and that starting in 2015 no workers on Apple assembly lines could be charged any recruitment fees. The report stated,

To protect foreign contract workers, Apple required our suppliers to reimburse US$3.96 million in excess fees to over 4500 foreign contractors in 2014, bringing the total reimbursements to US$20.96 million to over 30,000 foreign contract workers since our program began in 2008. To drive change, we also audited 100 percent of our top 200 facilities that were most at risk of hiring foreign workers, conducting nearly 70 bonded labor assessments.

Many factory workers are recruited through employment services who then charge workers fees for getting them a job. Those fees, often times equal to a month's pay, put workers in debt even before they start their new job.

Apple is also cracking down on underage workers, forcing employees to work for extended periods without breaks or days off, and other forms of exploitation.

"We care deeply about every worker in Apple's global supply chain. To improve their lives, we continue to proactively tackle issues that are part of the broader challenges facing our world today — human rights and equality, environmental protection, and education," said Apple Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams. "We have long championed these causes, and 2014 was a year of tremendous progress."

Apple's efforts to help factory employees goes beyond just worker rights. According to the company, over 861,000 factory workers since 2008 have taken free courses it offers, and some have earned college degrees without having to spend any money.

Despite Apple's efforts, Mr. Williams said there's still plenty to be done to improve worker conditions.

"While we have made significant progress, gaps still exist, and there is more work to do. We know that workers are counting on us," he said. "We will not stop until every person in our supply chain is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve."