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Thursday, June 28, 2012
Rights Group Targets Apple's Suppliers in China

Apple's suppliers in China have violated local labor laws when they imposed excessive overtime and skimped on insurance, New York-based China Labor Watch said.

Apple and its suppliers such as Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou's Foxconn Technology Group have been the target of labor rights groups, which say the world's most valuable technology company are making iPhones and iPads in massive sweat shops.

Independent not-for-profit organization China Labor Watch released a new investigative report on an Apple Foxconn factory, as well as nine other factories in China that supply Apple, finding not only that labor rights violations are still common at Foxconn but also that these violations are rampant throughout Apple?s supply chain. The group added that conditions could be even worse at other Apple suppliers, including at the Riteng factory in Shanghai.

A four-month investigation through April showed common problems in the ten factories, including excessive overtime, low wages, dangerous working conditions as well as issues related to workers' insurances.

Specificaly, the average overtime in most of the factories was between 100 and 130 hours per month, and between 150 and 180 hours per month during peak production season, well above China?s legal limits, the report found. In most factories, workers generally work 11 hours every day, including weekends and holidays during peak seasons.

In addition, low wages compel workers to accept long overtime hours. Most of the factories pay a basic salary equal to the minimum wage stipulated by the local law (around $200/month), so low that workers have to work long hours to support themselves.

Workers are also exposed to a variety of dangerous working conditions and they often find the food offered in the factory cafeterias unsanitary, the report claims.

Workers are also not familiar with unions and their function while some factories do not pay for workers' social insurance, work injury insurance, and other insurance required by law, the report says.

Regarding the Riteng factory (a unit of Taiwan's Pegatron Corp,) it stands out for its particularly poor working conditions, with these conditions even worse than they are at Foxconn, China Labor Watch found. On average Riteng workers are on the job nearly 12 hours a day, compared to 10 hours a day at the Foxconn factory. Their overtime hours dwarf those of the Foxconn workers, which themselves are well above the legal limit set in China. For Riteng workers, the average hourly wage is 8.2 RMB or $1.30, well below the still-meager average hourly wage of Foxconn workers of 10.2 RMB or $1.62.

Apple said it had been making checks at its supply chain partners and regularly publishes reports on workers' situation on its website. The company said it had been following up to make sure suppliers comply with its labor standards. Apple this year also allowed the U.S.-based Fair Labor Association (FLA) to conduct a high-profile probe of Foxconn's factories in China.

Despite Apple's efforts, China Labor Watch says that the biggest problem overlooked by Apple in their Social Responsibility Reports is the prevalent use of dispatched labor in their supply chain. "Except for Foxconn in Shenzhen which transferred all dispatched workers to direct-hire status in 2011, all other investigated factories overused dispatched labor, including Jabil in Shenzhen where dispatched labor made up almost 70% of the workforce," the group said.

"The squeezing of factory workers exists throughout Apple?s supply chain in China, and not just at Foxconn," said Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch. "Apple has the responsibility, and the financial resources, to ensure that needed improvements for workers occur systematically and quickly."

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