Tech Industry

China Labor Watch chastises factory making 'cheap' iPhone

The workplace watchdog takes Apple and its supplier to task for violations at a Chinese factory that apparently is producing the casing for Apple's new "cheap" iPhone.


The China Labor Watch claims in a new report that a factory in Apple's supply chain is yet again mistreating workers.

In a report released Thursday (PDF), China Labor Watch alleges that a factory in Wuxi, China -- apparently producing the casing for Apple's "cheap" iPhone -- is committing a number of labor violations.

The Jabil Green Point factory in Wuxi ("Jabil Wuxi") is owned by Jabil Circuit, a U.S.-based company headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., which reported revenue of $17.2 billion in 2012. According to the nonprofit agency, the factory produces the rear plastic covers of Apple's cheap iPhone, believed to be announced in the coming weeks.

After conducting an undercover investigation, China Labor Watch alleges that Chinese workers have lost millions of dollars in unpaid overtime wages and are forced to complete over 100 hours of mandatory paid overtime a month on top of 11 hours of overtime which is unpaid. In addition, workers are made to stand for over 11 hours every day with no rest outside 30-minute meal breaks -- which is three times over the Chinese legal limit.

Although many workers were "generally happy" about the food served at the factory, "many workers are provided with little time to enjoy it," the report says. Lunch breaks consist of 30 minutes, but by the time workers are able to navigate through security, they are left with only a few minutes to enjoy their break. If employees leave the work bench for more than 30 minutes, they will not reach their production quotas.

China Labor Watch claims that the factory has discriminatory hiring practices, and forces women to take pregnancy tests at the recruitment stage. However, the agency says that "although CLW interviewed 13 female workers, none of them were pregnant and we were not able to confirm that the factory refuses to hire them."

In addition to these claims, the labor group says that training is perfunctory and lacks safety information, audit fraud is potentially taking place, and living accommodation is overcrowded with eight workers per dorm -- which are not organized depending on whether staff are working day or night shifts.

The report says:

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

China Labor Watch was founded in 2000, and has conducted a number of investigations in to Chinese factories. The nonprofit investigated Foxconn rival and Apple supplier Pegatron in August, where the group said the manufacturer was guilty of safety violations, poor living conditions, and excessive overtime.

In response to continual claims of worker abuse in supplier factories, Apple conducts audits within its supply chain to investigate and correct problems.

"CLW's newest report is not only evidence that Apple and its suppliers continue to infringe upon the labor rights and human rights of the workers making Apple products, it also evidence that such supplier factories are not restricted to Asian-owned factories," China Labor Watch said.

Update 11:10 a.m. PT: Apple offered this response to the China Labor Watch report:

Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain. We lead the industry with far-reaching and specialized audits, the most transparent reporting and educational programs that enrich the lives of workers who make our products. Apple is the first and only technology company to be admitted to the Fair Labor Association, and we are dedicated to protecting every worker in our supply chain.

As part of our extensive Supplier Responsibility program, Apple has conducted 14 comprehensive audits at Jabil facilities since 2008, including three audits of Jabil 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 has a proactive auditing program of their own and they have an excellent track record of meeting Apple's high standards.

Employees at Jabil are among the 1 million workers in Apple's supply chain whose working hours we track each week and report on our website. Year to date, Jabil Wuxi has performed above our 92% average for compliance with Apple's 60-hour per week limit. An audit completed earlier this year did find that some employees had worked more than six consecutive days without a day of rest, and Jabil has been working with our team to better manage overtime.

We are proud of the work we do with our suppliers to improve conditions for workers. Our program goes far beyond monitoring by ensuring corrective actions where they are needed and aggressively enforcing our supplier code of conduct wherever Apple products are made. We believe in transparency and accountability, both for our suppliers and ourselves.