Apple has forced its suppliers to end a form of “bonded labor” that saddled assembly line workers with unnecessary hiring fees, and put them in debt to third-party recruiters.
The requirement went into effect starting this year, the company said on Wednesday in its latest supplier responsibility report, which examines the labor conditions at factories that produce Apple products.
Many of these factories are based in mainland China, where suppliers are hiring thousands of local workers. But in periods of labor shortages, Apple suppliers have at times relied on third-party recruitment agencies to bring in more temporary workers.
The practice, however, isn’t without controversy. Contract workers brought in by these third-party agencies can be charged “excessive recruitment fees” in exchange for jobs, Apple said in the report.
“Doing so creates an unjust system that places contract workers in debt before they even begin their jobs,” it added.
To overcome the problem, Apple has forced its suppliers to repay any workers who were charged recruitment fees. In 2014, the U.S. company required its suppliers to reimburse over 4,500 contract workers for a total amount of about US$4 million.
Apple added that since 2008, the company has helped reimburse 30,000 contract workers for an amount of almost $21 million to cover the excess fees.