Report: Apple supplier exposed workers to hazards, poor working conditions

Catcher violated 14 of Apple's supplier-responsibility standards, according to China Labor Watch. The Apple supplier was previously found with violations in 2014.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor
Apple CEO Tim Cook visiting supplier Foxconn. (Image: file photo)

Catcher Technology, a Taiwan-based factory making casings for Apple's iPhone and Mac, violated 14 of Apple's supplier-responsibility standards, according to China Labor Watch and Bloomberg reports on Tuesday.

From October 2017 to January 2018, CLW conducted an investigation at a Catcher factory based in Suqian. Major issues found at Catcher included occupational health and safety, pollution, and work schedule, the report said.

Catcher is a previous violator of work rights. CLW found in 2014 rights violations including discriminatory hiring policies, lack of safety training, long work hours, and low wages.

In its recent report on Catcher, CLW detailed a work schedule that saw workers losing overtime pay:

The Catcher factory schedules Saturdays as overtime with workers being paid double time, and Sundays as days off. However, the factory has now adopted a "seven shifts, six rotations" work schedule. From Monday to Friday, workers take turns in having a day off; which means that workers have their day off earlier in the week but then make up that day of work later on. Saturdays are used to make up and is therefore not paid double time, and Sundays are still counted as regular workdays. Workers affected by this schedule lose around 500 RMB ($76.57 USD) every month in overtime pay.

CLW found that on the morning of May 25, 2017 there was a toxic gas poisoning incident at Catcher's A6 workshop. The incident resulted in the hospitalization of 90 workers, with five admitted to intensive care, the report said.

CLW investigators also found wastewater at the factory had an excess of white foam, dispensed directly into the public waste system.

Bloomberg reported that when a journalist visited the plant in January, about eight workers shared a cramped dorm room of roughly four bunk beds. Dorms lack hot water and showers, and in interviews with Bloomberg, factory workers described long, harsh work hours and concerns about safety issues.

An Apple spokesperson told Bloomberg it sent additional team members to audit the factory upon hearing of the CLW's impending report. The Apple spokesperson said after interviewing 150 people, the Apple team didn't find evidence of violation of its standards.

"We know our work is never done and we investigate each and every allegation that's made. We remain dedicated to doing all we can to protect the workers in our supply chain," the Apple spokeswoman added to Bloomberg.

The Catcher factory also supplies parts for Samsung, HP, Lenovo, and LG. Catcher told Bloomberg it investigated the claims, but like Apple, found no evidence.

In 2016, Apple issued a code of conduct for its suppliers to adhere to. It assess suppliers in three main categories: Labor and human rights, environmental responsibility, and health and safety. On its website, Apple says it conducted 705 supplier assessments in 2016, up from 574 in 2015. Numbers for 2017 haven't been published yet by the company.

Apple's supplier code says its partners should "identify, evaluate, and manage occupational health and safety hazards through a prioritized process of hazard elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and/or personal protective equipment."

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