IT & Telecom

Apple faces forced labour issue, stores closure amid Covid

Apple - Apple faces forced labour issue, stores closure amid Covid

WASHINGTON: The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rejected a petition by Apple to exclude three shareholder proposals, including on the use of forced labour, from going to a vote at the company’s next annual meeting.

Earlier this year, a group of shareholders asked Apple’s board to prepare a detailed report into the latest allegations of forced labor in the tech giant’s supply chain. Investors also called for clarifications of why several apps are removed from the App Store in China, and requested a public report about the company’s potential risks due to alleged use of non-disclosure agreements in the context of workplace harassment and discrimination.

The proposal regarding the “use of concealment clauses in the context of harassment, discrimination and other unlawful acts” was filed in September by investor Nia Impact Capital. In the following month, Apple filed a response with the SEC saying it wanted to exclude the proposal due to “the company’s policy” that doesn’t allow using “such clauses.”

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The SEC denied Apple’s request to stop its shareholders from addressing the issues, saying that the company had not “substantially implemented the proposal.”

The latest move, which is seen as a big win for activists, signals trouble for Apple and other US corporations. It means that the iPhone maker will have to face a vote on the proposals at the annual shareholder meeting scheduled for the first quarter of 2022, barring any deals made with shareholders. Corporate giants like Apple commonly ask permission to skip shareholder proposals, requests the SEC traditionally grants about half the time.

Meanwhile, Apple temporarily closed at least eight retail stores in the US and Canada over the past day as Covid-19 cases surged among the public and employees.

Since Tuesday, Apple has closed outlets at: Dadeland in Miami, The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach, Lenox Square in Atlanta, Cumberland Mall in Atlanta, Highland Village in Houston, Summit Mall in Ohio, Pheasant Lane in New Hampshire and Sainte-Catherine in Montreal.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, typically shuts down a retail site when about 10 percent of staff members test positive for Covid-19. Such closures have become increasingly routine in recent weeks.

Before the latest round, Apple shut and reopened eight additional locations, including stores in Texas, Maryland, Hawaii, Ohio and Ottawa. The closures typically lasted a few days each. A ninth closed store – Lincoln Road in Miami Beach – is still shut. In August, Apple also temporarily closed a location in Charleston, South Carolina.

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