New Investigation Finds Alarming Conditions at Three Apple Suppliers

The Hong Kong based group SACOM released a report today of a new investigation of working conditions at three Apple factories in China. The investigation uncovered extensive labor rights abuses, including extremely long work hours, employees forced to work off the clock for no pay, continuing hazards to worker safety, and verbal abuse and humiliation of workers by supervisors. The report, issued on the eve of Apple’s annual shareholder meeting, calls into question the accuracy of Apple’s claims of labor rights progress in its supply chain.

SACOM interviewed 130 workers employed at Foxlink, Pegatron and Wintek, three key suppliers of parts used in the assembly of iPhones, iPods and Macs.

Of note, the report found that poor conditions have led to turnover rates so high that the factories are resorting to the use of contracted labor on a massive scale, hiring so-called “dispatch” agencies to provide workers who are employed by the agencies, not the factories. This arrangement makes workers especially vulnerable because they enjoy few protections under Chinese labor law. SACOM found that dispatch workers comprise as much as 80% of the workforce at these factories.

The findings in the SACOM report include:

Excessively long work hours remain common. During peak production periods, workers can work up to 14 hours per day and receive only one or two days off over a period of nearly three months. Working 70-100 hours per week is common during peak periods, far in excess of what is permitted by Chinese law (49 hours) and even above the maximum allowed under Apple’s own code of conduct (60 hours).

Unpaid work remains frequent. Most egregiously, workers at one supplier (Foxlink) complained that if they have not met their production quotas, they have to work unpaid overtime until they do so. Workers also report unpaid work when they have to arrive early, such as to wait in line to swipe their time cards or for work meetings, or when their meal times are cut short.

Unhealthy working conditions abound.  Workers are exposed to unhealthy levels of potent chemicals, hazardous dust, and noise. Aluminum dust sparked a serious explosion at one supplier (Pegatron) in December 2011, but one year later, necessary prevention measures had still not been taken.

Workers are often treated in an abusive fashion.  Supervisors often verbally abuse and humiliate workers in front of their co-workers. Arbitrary and demeaning punishments, such as constraining bathroom breaks, are imposed.

SACOM underscores Apple’s responsibility for these alarming work conditions. SACOM describes how, on the one hand, Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct commits the company to eliminating such practices, while on the other hand, its demanding production schedules push its suppliers to the edge, making such practices more likely.

SACOM interviewed some of the factory workers in mid-October 2012 and some in December 2012.  These workers were employed at Foxlink in Guangdong Province, Pegatron in Shanghai, and Wintek in Jiangsu Province.

Read the full report: Apple fails in its responsibility to monitor suppliers.

For more information on working conditions at Apple suppliers, visit www.AppleLabor.com.


Follow EPI

Track us on Twitter