Fri, Jun 29, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Group pans abuse in Apple chain

EMPTY PROMISES?After talking to workers and sending undercover investigators to plants, a labor group says Apple has done little to improve dire working conditions

AFP, BEIJING

A labor rights group said yesterday that it had found “deplorable” conditions at Apple suppliers in China, following a probe of several firms that make the US technology giant’s hugely popular products.

New York-based China Labor Watch said a four-month investigation of 10 suppliers to Apple in southern and eastern China uncovered violations of workers’ rights, including excessive overtime and hazardous work conditions.

“This investigation of 10 different Apple factories in China finds that harmful, damaging work environments characterized by illegally long hours for low levels of pay are widespread in Apple’s supply [chain],” the group said.

The report was based on surveys and interviews of 620 workers, as well as first-hand observations by a team of six, including some who entered the factories undercover.

The lengthy report followed findings announced in March by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which toured three Chinese suppliers with Apple’s consent and also reported on forced overtime and other problems.

China Labor Watch director Li Qiang (李強) urged Apple to make good on pledges to improve, and in a letter to the California-based company’s chief executive Tim Cook called for immediate changes to be made.

“Are these promises sincere or merely a public relations ploy?” the report asked.

Li said the FLA investigation had better access than his organization, but that report blamed the suppliers instead of placing responsibility on Apple.

“Apple should take the responsibility to change the poor working conditions of those workers,” Li said.

Following the FLA report, Apple’s largest supplier, Taiwan’s Foxconn (富士康), pledged to end workplace abuses at its factories in China, including overtime above the amount permitted by Chinese law.

Foxconn has come under scrutiny since 2010, following a spate of suicides and incidents of labor unrest at its Chinese plants.

China Labor Watch reported that other Apple suppliers had treated their staff worse than Foxconn, which has received the most attention.

“The labor rights violations at Foxconn also exist in virtually all other Apple supplier factories and in many cases are actually significantly more dire than Foxconn,” the report said.

The group found employees worked an average of between 100 and 130 hours of overtime a month at the 10 factories, well above China’s legal limit of 36 hours.

Low wages compelled workers to accept overtime and some factories did not properly compensate them for the hours, it said.

Working conditions in factories that produce cases for Apple products were especially poor, including exposure to loud noise and toxic chemicals, the report said.

The 10 firms investigated included Foxconn, Jabil Circuit and BYD Electronic (比亞迪) in Shenzhen, as well as Riteng Computer Accessory (日騰) and Kenseisha in Shanghai and five others in Jiangsu Province.

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