Apple Finds Few Violations at Chinese iPod Factory

An investigation by Apple Computer into the manufacture of iPods in China has unearthed several violations of the company’s supplier code of conduct. But the factory was found to be in compliance with the majority of Apple’s requirements.

In June, a U.K. newspaper, the Mail On Sunday, reported that workers at a Chinese factory owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry worked long hours under difficult conditions for little pay to manufacture Apple’s iPod. In response, Apple sent an audit team composed of human resources, operations and legal executives to the factory in southern China.

The investigation found the factory complied with the majority of the areas covered by Apple’s supplier code of conduct. It also found that all employees received the legal minimum wage or more and had the opportunity to earn bonuses. But there were several violations uncovered that Apple and the factory are working to address, the report said. The full report is available online.

A Hon Hai spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment on the report’s findings.

Among the violations uncovered by Apple were three off-site dormitories found to offer unsatisfactory living conditions. "Two of the dormitories, originally built as factories, now contain a large number of beds and lockers in an open space, and from our perspective, felt too impersonal. The third contained triple-bunks, which in our opinion didn’t provide reasonable personal space," Apple said.

The factory owner is now building new dormitories to replace these, Apple said, noting this construction effort was under way before it conducted its investigation.

"A majority of employees interviewed were pleased with the work environment and specifically noted the opportunity for advancement, widespread year-end bonuses, and the reputation of the supplier in the industry," Apple said in the report. "Additionally, employees consistently mentioned that they felt safe and secure in both the workplace and the dormitories."

However, factory employees expressed dissatisfaction in some areas, including a lack of overtime during non-peak periods and inadequate transportation between the factory and off-site dormitories outside working hours. The transportation schedule is now being reviewed, Apple said.

The investigation also uncovered two instances where employees had been made to stand at attention as a disciplinary measure. The practice does not appear to be widespread, and training has been implemented to make sure this does not happen again, Apple said.

Apple plans to conduct similar audits at all of its Mac and iPod suppliers by the end of this year, the company said.

-Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service (Beijing Bureau)

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