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China – Apple accused again of mistreating workers

06 September 2013

A new undercover investigation by China Labour Watch (CLW) revealed a series of ethical and legal labour violations in a factory in Wuxi, China owned by U.S. electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuit that is currently producing the soon-to-be-released iPhone for Apple.

This marks the second time in two months that Apple has come under fire for the mistreatment of workers in factories producing Apple products. In July 2013, Apple’s supplier Pegatron was also accused by CLW of abusing workers

Among the infringements uncovered by CLW include millions of dollars in unpaid overtime wages; over 100 hours of monthly mandatory overtime, three times in excess of legal limits; the use of dispatch workers beyond statutory limits; more than 11 hours of standing work every day with no rest outside of 30-minute meal breaks; illegally inadequate pre-work training; hiring discrimination; and more.

Many of the violations raised in CLW’s report also contradict the codes of conduct of both Apple and Jabil Circuit. CLW claim that, despite half a decade of outside investigations and self-reporting on myriad labour abuse throughout its Chinese supply chain, Apple has continually failed to compel supplier factories to conform to Apple’s code of conduct and local labour laws before giving these suppliers Apple production orders.

CLW’s newest report  alleges that Apple’s abuse of labour rights and human rights are not restricted to Asian-owned factories given that Jabil Circuit is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Below are the primary legal and ethical violations uncovered at Jabil Green Point:

• Heavy use of dispatch workers beyond statutory limits.
• Dispatch workers charged fees by dispatch companies and employment agencies.
• Hiring discrimination (age 18-35, no tattoos).
• Potential hiring discrimination against pregnant women.
• Workers made to sign a number of hiring documents which are meant to free Jabil from liability, but workers are not given time to understand the documents they sign and are not given a copy of the documents.
• Training is only two hours.
• Training is perfunctory, exam answers are given by trainer to be copied.
• Training lacks information on safety despite a number of positions in the factory that involve regular contact with harmful chemicals, loud noises, or other hazards, leading to workers using protective equipment in incorrect ways.
• 110 hours of overtime per month is common, which is in excess of Apple's own code and even further in excess of Chinese statutory regulations on overtime hours.
• 11.5 hours of standing work per day.
• Despite work intensity and continual standing, workers are given no breaks outside of meal breaks during a 12-hour shift.
• Each worker is forced to work 11 hours of unpaid overtime every month.
• Overtime is usually mandatory.
• Potential audit fraud--daily factory attendance records display workers' working hours as an hour less than their real working hours.
• Some overtime hours are paid at rates less than that required by labour laws.
• Crowded dorms have eight people per room.
• Shift workers are assigned the same rooms, leading to workers' sleep being interrupted by one another.
• Short breaks only provide many workers with just minutes to eat.
• In order to meet high production quotas for iPhone covers, Jabil workers have to violate Jabil's own standard operating procedures, and management tacitly consents to the violations.
• Fire escape routes in some production departments are not clear.
• There is a list of punishments at Jabil that workers must sign before working, but the workers are not given a copy of these punishments.
• Workers rely on overtime work to earn a living wage.
• Lack of effective grievance channels.

Apple released a statement responding to the allegations: “Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain. As part of our extensive Supplier Responsibility programme, Apple has conducted 14 comprehensive audits at Jabil facilities since 2008; including three audits of Jail Wuxi in the past 36 months. We take any concerns about our suppliers very seriously, and our team of experts is on-site at Jabil Wuxi to look into the new claims about conditions there.”  

Jabil also released a statement concerning the allegations: “Jabil is committed to ensuring every employee is provided a safe working environment where they are treated fairly, with dignity, and respect. We take seriously any allegation that we are not fulfilling that commitment and are taking immediate action to ensure recent allegations are thoroughly investigated and, if found credible, corrected.”

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