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Sat, Aug 19, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Apple clears PRC plant of abuse

LABOR INSPECTION An audit of the company's Chinese iPod factories following an expose by a British newspaper revealed no forced labor, the computer giant reported

AGENCIES , SHANGHAI

Apple Computer Inc's investigation into claims of poor conditions at a Chinese iPod factory found no forced labor but revealed that laborers were exceeding the company's limits on hours and days to be worked per week, the company said yesterday.

The company said it was taking immediate steps to resolve that and other issues.

The probe by the Cupertino, California-based company was in response to a recent report by a British newspaper, the Mail on Sunday, alleging that workers at the factory were paid as little as US$50 a month and forced to work 15-hour shifts making the devices.

"The team reviewed personnel files and hiring practices and found no evidence whatsoever of the use of child labor or any form of forced labor," Apple said in a report on its Web site that summarized the findings of its audit of the facility.

However, the probe did find that in many cases workers were exceeding the company's limits for overtime, which specify a maximum of 60 hours or six days a week.

"We found no instances of forced overtime," the report said.

But it said weekly limits were exceeded 35 percent of the time in a seven-month period and that employees worked more than six days in a row 25 percent of the time.

The company running the factory, which was not named in the report, was ordered to enforce Apple's overtime limits, it said.

Apple's iconic iPod players are made abroad, mainly in China. The company has sold more than 50 million iPods since its debut in 2001. The company responded vehemently to the allegations made by the British newspaper, saying it would not tolerate any violations of its code of conduct.

Apple said its inspection found that in at least two instances workers were made to stand at attention for disciplinary reasons.

"Apple has a zero tolerance policy for any instance, isolated or not, of any treatment of workers that could be interpreted as harsh," the report said.

It said the factory has launched an "aggressive" manager and employee training program to prevent such behavior.

The probe found the workers assembling iPods were paid at least the minimum wage, with more than half earning more than the minimum wage, excluding bonuses. Minimum wage for southern China's Shenzhen, where the factory is thought to be located, is about 800 yuan (US$100) a month.

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), whose unit makes iPod music players for Apple, said it will strive to hire more workers and build dormitories in China after the US company found labor practices violated a code of conduct.

"We'll do our best in hiring more workers to ensure appropriate working hours and workers' welfare," Edmund Ding (丁祈安), Taipei-based Hon Hai spokesman, said yesterday. The Hon Hai unit, Foxconn Technology Group, is Apple's main supplier of iPods in China.

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