Apple suppliers found to use child labor

More than half of Apple’s suppliers visited in a recent audit have been overworking staff, and three have been using underage labor, the company has admitted.

In its 2010 Supplier Responsibility report, the company says that three suppliers hired fifteen-year-olds in countries where the official minimum working age 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 underage or no longer in active employment at the time of our audit,” it says.

More than 60 of the 102 facilities visited by the company’s inspection teams were found to be working their staff more than Apple’s stated maximum hours – itself a pretty high figure, at 60 hours per week.

Many were also paying less than the minimum wage, or depriving staff of basic benefits such as sick pay.

Three suppliers tried to fiddle the books to hide underage working or  excessive hours.

Apple isn’t revealing which suppliers were breaking the rules. It says it visited firms in China, the Czech Republic,

Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States.

“In 2009, our audits identified 17 core violations: eight violations involving excessive recruitment fees; three cases where underage workers had been hired; three cases where our supplier contracted with noncertified vendors for hazardous waste disposal; and three cases of falsified records provided during the audit,” says the company.

Apple says it plans to come down hard on the errant suppliers, and is sending the consultants in.