Apple 'failing to protect Chinese factory workers,' claims report

Workers in Chinese factories making Apple products are being poorly treated, undercover investigations by the BBC claims.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Workers in Chinese factories making Apple products are being poorly treated, undercover investigations by the BBC claims.

The BBC's current affairs program Panorama carried out undercover filming on an iPhone 6 production line and claimed that Apple's promises to protect workers were routinely broken. Specifically, it said that undercover reporters found that standards relating to workers' hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached at the Pegatron factories.

Pegatron is a major component manufacturer to Apple and many other consumer electronics companies.

The report shows exhausted workers falling asleep during their 12-hour shifts at the Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai, and one undercover reporter, working in a factory making parts for Apple computers, had to work 18 days in a row despite repeatedly requesting days off. Another reporter, whose longest shift was 16 hours, said: "Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn't want to move.

Apple declined to be interviewed for the report, but said it strongly disagreed with the conclusions.

"We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions," the company said in a statement.

"We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done."

Apple also said that it was a common practice for workers to take naps during break times, but that it would investigate any evidence they were falling asleep while working.

The BBC report also found evidence that tin from illegal mines in Indonesia could be entering Apple's supply chain.

Apple claims that the situation is complex.

"The simplest course of action would be for Apple to unilaterally refuse any tin from Indonesian mines. That would be easy for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism. But that would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation. We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground."

Apple has published information on supplier responsibility that covers topics such as empowering workers, labor and human rights, health and safety, the environment and accountability.

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