Apple’s Challenges for Fair Hiring of Supply Chain Workers

iPhone 5 assembly line Foxconn

Apple and other multinational companies are facing severe challenges in ensuring fair treatment of workers in their supply chain. Because the problems in its supply chain have made headlines, Apple has conducted several audits and as the Supplier Responsibility page shows, it is tracking the work hours of more than one million workers in its supply chain.

But, the challenges still remain, and Bloomberg Businessweek shares a lengthy story, which details the company’s challenges. The piece is centered around Flextronics, an Apple supplier based in Singapore, with about 28 million square-feet of factory space across four continents.

When Flextronics won a contract with Apple for the iPhone 5, it hired brokers because it sought to hire around 1,500 men to make cameras. The instructions were clear: Flextronics will pay the brokers, who don’t need to take fees from the families.

But the information got lost somehow, when the brokers have contacted subagencies, so the people looking for an international job ended up paying hefty fees representing as much as a year or more of wages.

To give an inside look into the real issues of Apple’s supply chain, Bloomberg tells the story of man who ended up working for Apple through Flextronics because he was hired by one of these brokers – among the other 1,499 – to test the iPhone 5 camera.

Dhong grabbed a black-and-tan backpack holding his shaving kit, a single change of clothes, two Bibles (one in Nepalese, one in English), and three family photos. He said goodbye to his crying wife and daughter, then jumped onto a microbus on a loud and dusty Kathmandu road. As promised, the third agent was at the airport, holding Dhong’s passport. He demanded money, but Dhong had nothing left to give. So the broker told Dhong to sign a debenture agreement promising to pay $400 more. If Dhong didn’t sign and if he didn’t quickly pay, he would lose the job. He had yet to start work, and already he was $1,000 in debt.

You can read the full story in BusinessWeek.