Apple sent medical team to probe Pegatron deaths

COINCIDENCE?:A labor group said various workers at the Taiwanese firm’s Shanghai plant died within a short period, but Apple found ‘no link to working conditions’


Fri, Dec 13, 2013 - Page 15

Apple Inc, the world’s most valuable technology company, sent independent medical experts to a Chinese factory operated by Taiwanese supplier Pegatron Corp (和碩) after the deaths of some employees.

“While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realize that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones,” Apple said in an e-mailed statement. “We have a team working with Pegatron at their facility to ensure that conditions meet our high standards.”

Apple has for years faced questions about working conditions at plants of suppliers that provide components and assemble its top-selling iPhones and iPads. The Cupertino, California-based company has published audits disclosing instances of child labor, long working hours, unfair compensation and practices that cause harm to the environment.

Several Pegatron (Shanghai) Ltd workers “passed away in a short period of time,” China Labor Watch said in a statement on Dec. 9 without saying how many workers died, whether they worked on Apple products, or how the labor group obtained the information. Pegatron also supplies Sony Corp and Dell Inc.

A 15-year-old died of pneumonia on Oct. 9 at a Shanghai hospital after taking a pre-employment physical examination on Sept. 4 which indicated he was in good health, China Labor Watch wrote, without saying whether the test included a lung examination or checked for signs of pneumonia.

The minimum age for employment is 15 years of age, according to Apple’s supplier code of conduct.

“Pegatron has strict measures in place to verify workers’ ages before and after they are hired and we work with health and safety experts to provide a safe working environment for each and every worker,” the Taipei-based company said in an e-mailed statement. “We have an excellent track record of compliance with laws aimed at preventing underage labor.”

Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook has made improving conditions within its supply chain a priority and says the company will suspend business with those that violate its code of conduct. The company last year enlisted the Fair Labor Association to perform independent reviews of its suppliers.

Pegatron is the second company after Foxconn Technology Group (富士康) to assemble iPhones and iPads, according to Apple’s supplier report. Quanta Computer Inc (廣達), also Taiwanese, makes computers for Apple.

China Labor Watch said the Pegatron plant makes mobile phones and tablet computers, including Apple’s iPhone 5C. The group is seeking donations for an autopsy of the worker.

The New York-based organization this month said a supplier to Samsung Electronics Co is not paying some overtime to employees at a mobile phone factory in southern China, citing an undercover investigation of the plant.

Samkwang Science & Technology Co in Dongguan also violated Chinese labor laws by discriminating against men, pregnant women, ethnic minorities and applicants older than 39, the group said in a report on its Web site.

Samsung, Asia’s largest technology company and the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, said it will send a team of specialists to investigate the allegations and take necessary measures.

Last year, the group said a Chinese supplier of mobile phone covers to Samsung employed underage girls in China. The group also found instances of forced overtime at HTNS Shenzhen Co (深圳市赫那羅國際), in addition to poor air quality and a lack of proper ventilation.