A labor rights group yesterday accused a Taiwanese company that assembles iPhones for Apple Inc of rights abuses in its Chinese factories, including withholding employees’ pay and excessive working hours.
China Labor Watch said it found violations of Chinese law and of Apple’s pledges about working conditions at factories operated by Pegatron Corp (和碩).
Conditions in Chinese factories that produce iPhones and other popular Apple products have been under scrutiny following complaints about labor and environmental violations by another Taiwanese supplier, Hon Hai Group (鴻海集團), also known as Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團).
Apple said in a statement it was “committed to providing safe and fair working conditions” and would investigate the claims.
In a separate statement, Pegatron chief executive Jason Cheng (程建中) also promised to probe the report’s claims.
“We take these allegations very seriously,” Cheng said. “We will investigate them fully and take immediate actions to correct any violations to Chinese labor laws and our own code of conduct.”
China Labor Watch said its investigation covered two factories in Shanghai and one in Suzhou, which together employ 70,000 people.
It found violations including discrimination against ethnic minorities and women, excessive work hours, poor living conditions, health and safety problems and pollution.
Pegatron assembles products including the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 for Apple, according to the report.
Apple said it confirmed one accusation by the group — that the identity cards of some workers were being held by management — and told Pegatron to stop the practice.
Apple has published a code of conduct for its suppliers and joined the Fair Labor Association, a worker rights monitoring group. The association inspected Foxconn factories early last year and said in August that year that improvements it recommended were being carried out ahead of schedule.
Conditions in factories in China are a sensitive issue for foreign companies that outsource production of shoes, consumer electronics and other goods to local contractors.
In its report, China Labor Watch said the majority of Pegatron production employees worked 66 to 69 hours a week, far above China’s legal limit of 49 hours.
It said pregnant women sometimes were required to work 11-hour days — more than the eight-hour legal limit — and employees were pressured to falsify time cards to conceal the violations.
The group accused Pegatron of “discriminatory hiring practices” including refusing to hire anyone older than 35 or members of China’s Hui, Tibetan or Uighur minorities.
The group said production line workers sometimes dump water laced with hazardous chemicals from cutting tools into sewers.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said it would send auditors to three Pegatron facilities this week to investigate the report’s claims.
The company said it has conducted 15 comprehensive audits of Pegatron facilities since 2007, including some surprise audits in the past 18 months. It said the audits covered more than 130,000 employees.
“Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain,” the company statement said. “If our audits find that workers have been underpaid or denied compensation for any time they’ve worked, we will require that Pegatron reimburse them in full.”