HP Cracks Down On Underage And Student Labor In China
February 8, 2013

HP Cracks Down On Underage And Student Labor In China

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Following in Apple´s footsteps, HP is now cracking down on student and underage workers in their factories in China. According to the New York Times, HP has now issued new rules to their factories regarding these workers.

These new regulations are even stricter than Apple´s guidelines for their supply chain partners. For instance, HP is now requiring all workers in their factories must be there voluntarily and not against their will. As for student and temporary workers, HP said these employees must be free to “leave work at any time upon reasonable notice without negative repercussions, and they must have access to reliable and reprisal-free grievance mechanisms.”

Furthermore, HP will now only allow student workers in their factories if the student´s area of study aligns with their work in the factory. According to the New York Times report, this move could potentially restrict the number of workers available in these factories.

All told, HP aims to staff their factories primarily with full-time workers rather than student or temporary employees.

"HP has a history of leadership in proactively addressing labor issues and driving supply chain improvements," explained Tony Prophet, the senior vice president of Worldwide Supply Chain Operations at HP in a statement.

"We have worked closely with leading Chinese stakeholders to develop our new student and temporary worker guidelines to ensure the highest standards of ethical workforce management."

HP is ready to implement these changes, telling their suppliers to begin complying with these new standards immediately. Like Apple, HP will also begin auditing their supply chain to ensure 100% compliance.

As noted by the New York Times, it´s not always easy for companies to enforce these kinds of labor practices in China. Even the nation´s labor laws are often ignored as factories struggle to keep up with demand amidst labor shortages.

Though HP´s new measures are similar to Apple´s, it may be easier for HP´s suppliers to comply. As one of the world´s largest computer manufacturers, HP has a mostly steady stream of demand throughout the year. Apple, on the other hand, has extreme periods of peaks and valleys in their demand. Production ramps up exponentially in the months leading up to a new iPad, iPhone or Mac announcement, and then generally falls into a relative lull the rest of the year.

Prophet told the New York Times even during peak labor periods, as often happens in the summer months and during the Chinese New Year, they´ll put a cap on student and temporary laborers. During these busy seasons, these workers are not to exceed 20% of the entire workforce. In the future, HP plans to decrease this percentage to 10%, though Prophet could not say exactly when this would happen.

It was only last month Apple released the report from their latest audits to keep underage workers out of their factories. In this report, Apple said they were playing hardball with their suppliers, and even stopped doing business with one supplier in particular for continuing to hire these young workers.

According to Apple´s guidelines, should a supplier be found to have hired underage workers, Apple requires them to pay for that child´s education in addition to continuing to pay them what they would have made in the factories.