China Labor Watch says Pegatron student unpaid, rights violated

Summary:The Chinese labor watchdog alleges that Apple supplier Pegatron is still failing to adequate cater for and pay their summer student workers.

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Credit: Apple

The China Labor Watch's latest investigative report into the conditions of the Chinese manufacturing labor force says that at least 100 students making the iPhone in a Pegatron-owned Shanghai factory are being underpaid.

In a fresh wave of allegations against manufacturing bodies in China, the watchdog says that Pegatron, a player in Apple's supply chain, hires thousands of students over the summer break via employment agencies and dispatch companies, but fails to pay them properly for their efforts.

The CLW's earlier investigations, published in July, claimed that three of Pegatron's factories were guilty of 86 labor rights violations, including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations, ignoring both Chinese and International law. The labor watchdog alleges that Pegatron's factories were guilty of hiring discrimination, women's rights violations, underage labor, contract violations, insufficient training, excessive working hours and insufficient wages, among others.

The group's follow-up investigations claim that the scale of wage and contract violations remain "shocking."

"As of September 9, 2013, about 100 student workers have already confirmed with CLW that while working at Pegatron Shanghai, they were not paid for 20 to 30 minutes of daily mandatory overtime meetings, had wages deducted, or only received 80 percent of the wages of normal workers despite doing the same work," the report says. "Many other student workers, who have not yet been reached, likely have suffered the same unfair treatment."

CLW contacted students from three schools, but believes that failure to pay wages properly are "common violations" across a workforce full of thousands of students.

Students were expected to work 12 hour-shifts on production lines, including mandatory overtime and unpaid meetings. While students hoped to earn extra cash over the summer to fund their education, wages were deducted in a number of ways. Fees, deposits and a 600 RMB ($98) reduction due to the students' inability to complete three months of work -- considering summer break is only two months -- were among the ways wage packets were allegedly reduced.

In addition, the CLW says that students workers at Pegatron did not receive pay stubs that explained wage calculation, so the non-profit is unsure of how much the manufacturer owes workers.

In a letter sent by students demanding full renumeration from the Apple supplier, workers say that interns automatically had 20 percent of their wages deducted and were forced to pay a 300 RMB agency fee and a 200 RMB deposit to begin employment. In addition, the students say that Pegatron should pay for compulsory, unpaid meeting time, which forced the staff to start work earlier.

In a separate document, students explain how workers face "unreasonable treatment" working for Pegatron, including discriminatory wage increases, "mechanic and inhumane management," and an inherent mistrust of employees. In addition, the students claim that "long periods of standing" due to "inhumane training" led to fainting spells, and workers face inadequate wages, mandatory overtime, crowded living spaces and unhealthy food.

The CLW says that Apple has been provided information on wage arrears, and the iPad and iPhone maker said Pegatron has recovered deductions for a number of workers. Pegatron has also prohibited employment agencies from deducting wages from workers going forward, but a number of students are still yet to receive their repayments.

Last week, the labor watchdog released a report documenting an undercover investigation into Florida-headquartered electronic manufacturer, Jabil Circuit, which is apparently producing the casing for Apple's new to-be-announced iPhone range.

The report suggested that the factory, producer of the "cheap" iPhone, violated Chinese labor laws through excessive working hours and unpaid overtime, and also discriminated workers depending on age and whether women were pregnant. In addition, meal breaks were considered unsatisfactory. In response to the allegations, Apple said:

"We are troubled by recent allegations related to excessive overtime, unpaid overtime, and working conditions at our Wuxi, China site. An audit team is en route to Wuxi to thoroughly investigate these claims."

Pegatron declined to comment on the report. ZDNet has reached out to Apple and will update if we hear back. 

Topics: Apple, China, iPad, iPhone, Mobility

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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