Bloomberg has a lengthy piece illustrating just how great a challenge it is for Apple and other multinational companies to ensure the fair treatment of workers in complex supply chains.

When one of Apple’s suppliers like Flextronics wins a new contract, it needs to take on additional workers – lots of them, and fast. Those workers are recruited through employment brokers, which are required to adhere to Apple’s rules. But many of them are brought in from other countries, like Malaysia and Nepal.

Alok Taparia, the managing director of Transworld Manpower, another of the four Nepalese brokers retained for that drive, says he was given clear instructions: Workers shouldn’t be charged; Flextronics would pay the brokers. But Taparia and the other Nepalese brokers say Flextronics demanded so many men so quickly that there was no way to do it without tapping the country’s network of subagents, stretching into Himalayan villages reachable only by foot. As Apple itself has described in reports on its supply chain, the subagents always charge…

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