iPhone 5C being built in 'abusive' factories, report alleges

An undercover report offers confirmation that Apple is making a cheap iPhone -- but also allegations of poor working conditions.

A report from an undercover workers-rights group has offered apparent confirmation that Apple is building a cheap, plastic iPhone -- but claims that Apple's new gadget is being built amid appalling working conditions.

The New York-based China Labor Watch says it conducted an undercover sting operation in three factories run by Pegatron, a manufacturing company that builds gadgets for Apple.

"Today's work," the report reads, "Is to paste protective film on the iPhone's plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines. This iPhone model with a plastic cover will soon be released on the market by Apple."

That's very close to confirmation that the plastic iPhone -- which is said to be called the iPhone 5C  -- is real, and will be unveiled before the end of the year.

That's intriguing news for gadget fans, but what's drastically less exciting is the rest of the report, which details the grim conditions inside the factories used by Apple.

"Pegatron supervisors harassed and abused workers by swearing at them and threatening collective punishment," the full report states. "If workers at AVY [one of the factories investigated] did not finish 600 iPad back covers during a single shift, they would be made to stay late without wages and accept scolding in front of others."

China Labor Watch says it uncovered at least 86 labour rights violations, including underage labour, poor living conditions and women's rights violations, as well as "abuse by management, and environmental pollution".

As an extremely important client to these tech builders, Apple has the clout to effect change in the way factories treat their workers. Foxconn -- another plant that builds Apple tech -- promised last year to get its working conditions up to code.

In response to the damning report, Apple told the Wall Street Journal, "Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain," going on to state that, "[The] latest report contains claims that are new to us and we will investigate them immediately."

Apple said it will visit the factories, saying, "If our audits find that workers have been underpaid or denied compensation for any time they've worked, we will require that Pegatron reimburse them in full."

What do you think Apple should do about unfair factory conditions? And are you excited about the prospect of a cheaper iPhone, or not bothered? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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