Labour and Human Rights

Workers’ rights are human rights.

A worker assembles Mac Pro in Austin, Texas.

Workers shouldn’t have to go into debt to earn their pay.

Bonded labour occurs when workers pay recruitment fees before they start receiving a salary, which can push them into debt. In Asia, some workers travel across the continent looking for higher wages and can be misled by corrupt job brokers into paying these unjust costs.

We do not tolerate unfair recruitment fees. In fact, when we discover cases of bonded labour, we make suppliers repay the employees the recruitment fees in full, whether or not the suppliers were directly involved in the recruiting process. This has resulted in over US$25.6 million repaid to workers since 2008, including US$4.7 million in 2015 alone. We also audit 100 per cent of our top 200 facilities at risk for bonded labour, and we conducted 69 special investigations in 2015.

To help workers avoid corrupt hiring practices, we partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to create a program that educates workers before they leave home. Sessions cover a range of topics, including workers’ rights and responsibilities, contract terms, the culture of their new country of employment, and how to report illegal practices and abuse. Because we want to improve the lives of as many people as we can, we are sharing this content with other companies and suppliers through the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC).

Case Study

Freeing Rechel Ragas from bonded labour.

Rechel Ragas grew up in an impoverished farming family in the Philippines. To help make ends meet, she sold lollies and planted rice with her father. Her parents couldn’t afford to pay for an advanced education, so she worked her way through university.

Rechel Ragas in Tainan, Taiwan.

When Rechel got married, she and her husband wanted to have a child and build their dream home. But even with a university degree, many jobs in her home country didn’t pay enough to support the future she wanted. So she started seeking work elsewhere.

Taiwan has salaries twice as high as the Philippines. But to secure a factory position there, Rechel had to use a job broker agency that charged her more money than she made in an entire year working in her home country. The broker found her a position at Mektec, a company that is part of Apple’s supply chain. Even though the fees Rechel paid were in compliance with local laws, they were beyond Apple’s standards for workers. So Apple alerted Mektec and they immediately agreed to reimburse Rechel all the recruitment fees. They also terminated their relationship with the broker.

Because of the reimbursement, Rechel was able to save enough money to make a down payment on the construction of their dream home, as well as return to the Philippines six months earlier than she’d originally planned. Eventually, she wants to save enough to put her brother through university.

Rechel and her friends at the factory canteen.

Childhood should not be spent in a factory.

We do not tolerate under-age labour in our supply chain. If we find under-age workers in our suppliers’ factories, we make the suppliers return the children to their homes, pay for their education at a school of their family’s choice, and continue to provide income for basic needs until they reach the legal working age. We also enlist a third-party organisation to monitor the children’s progress and report back to us. After they complete their education, suppliers must offer them re-employment. In 2015, we found three cases of under-age labour — and we will continue to look for it.

Working too many hours isn’t just unfair, it’s unsafe.

Working excessive hours is an issue that’s endemic in the entire manufacturing industry. Across our supply chain, we limit work to no more than 60 hours a week, with a mandatory day of rest once every seven days. But simply setting boundaries doesn’t solve this problem. With the help of a work-hour tracking tool and weekly reporting, we’ve been able to work with suppliers and the business partners who own those relationships to make changes in real time. In 2015, this system allowed us to achieve 97 per cent compliance across all working weeks, with full-time employee hours averaging 55 hours per week.

Supplier Work-Hour Compliance Over the Past 12 Months*

Work-Hour Compliance
monthper cent
Jan 201597
Feb 201596
Mar 201596
Apr 201598
May 201597
Jun 201598
Jul 201599
Aug 201598
Sep 201597
Oct 201598
Nov 201599
Dec 201599
Average Hours
monthhours
Jan 201555
Feb 201554
Mar 201556
Apr 201553
May 201555
Jun 201554
Jul 201554
Aug 201556
Sep 201556
Oct 201555
Nov 201554
Dec 201552
A worker inspects an iPhone at a final assembly facility in Zhengzhou, China.

Changing the landscape of mineral mining.

Apple is committed to responsible sourcing, and is working to ensure that minerals used in our products — like tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — do not finance armed conflict. We believe that instead of stopping suppliers from sourcing in these regions, it is imperative to work with them to bring change.

In December 2015, after five years of devoted effort, 100 per cent of the identified smelters and refiners in Apple’s supply chain for current products were participating in an independent third-party conflict minerals audit program. These audit programs have improved sourcing practices for smelters and the mining industry as a whole.

While this is an important milestone, and may be viewed by some companies as grounds to declare their products ‘conflict-free’, we believe participation in third-party audit programs alone is not enough. Ongoing engagement is critical, because some smelters that have completed third-party audits have minerals that are supplied by mines allegedly involved with armed groups. Recent improvements in regional monitoring and reporting provide Apple and other stakeholders with greater insight and the ability to investigate conditions in the mineral supply chains of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2016, we plan to continue improving conditions by enhancing due diligence in the gold supply chain. And we intend to report incidents related to armed groups wherever they apply to our supply chain, and seek resolution with the appropriate authorities.

Our goal of creating permanent change in the minerals sector will require contributions from many organisations. So we’re furthering our partnerships with like-minded companies, engaging with key nongovernment and government parties, and working with third-party audit program owners to achieve the ultimate objective of protecting human rights in the region.

We continue to publish a quarterly list of the names, countries and Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP) participation status of the smelters and refiners in our supply chain.

Safer tin mining in Indonesia.

Years ago, we discovered that many small-scale tin mines in Indonesia were operating with practices that put workers’ safety at risk. We also found that unsustainable mining practices were polluting the ocean and soil that are crucial to local communities. To change conditions in these mines, we spearheaded the formation of the Tin Working Group — a partnership with IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the industry group ITRI, the nongovernment organisation Friends of the Earth, and companies that use tin.

In 2015, Apple and the Tin Working Group conducted investigative research on the ground, and worked with civil society organisations and mining companies to define a five-year regulatory reform strategy of tin mining best practices. Together, we are also drafting standards and guidelines to help buyers of tin identify responsible sources in the global marketplace.

The Indonesian government is now evolving its own policies for tin production and the environmental impacts of mining. This includes revising guidelines for operating a tin mine with a legal business licence and revoking the tin licences of organisations that don’t comply. While this is an important first step, Apple plans to continue working with the government and tin industry stakeholders to support responsible mining practices in Indonesia.

A worker in Indonesia oversees the tin separation process.

Progress Report

Download this year’s progress report, read a letter from Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and view reports from previous years. Learn more