Apple screen supplier accused of violating worker rights

Biel Crystal Manufactory abuses worker rights, a Hong Kong rights group claims.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 10.30.16
Credit: SACOM

Apple supplier Biel Crystal Manufactory has been accused of violating workers' rights within its Chinese factories.

The manufacturer, which supplies iPhone screens to tech giant Apple, allegedly abuses its workers in a number of ways. According to a report by the Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), staff are forced to work in 11-hour shifts with only a single day off each month.

SACOM's research was conducted through 60 off-site interviews and an undercover investigation. Biel Crystal Manufactory, one of the largest producers of glass for mobile devices in the world, also counts Samsung, HTC, Nokia and Lenovo as clients, SACOM claims.

Iao Qiu (name changed to keep the worker anonymous) from the Quality check department told the group:

"Biel has a lot of orders from Apple and Samsung. There's no such thing as peak or non-peak seasons in the factory. Almost every month is a peak season, and we just work and work. We have to work three hours overtime every day from Mondays to Fridays, and we work another two full day (meaning 11 hours per day) on Saturdays and Sundays. There is no break at all until we shift duty at the end of each month."

In addition, the Hong Kong-based rights group also claims that safety standards are not up to par, with employees of Biel Crystal Manufactory often becoming injured in the workplace and then denied compensation. Employees are also fined or fired for failing to reach production targets, falling asleep or breaking glass.

Workers are made to sign a blank contract, the rights group says, which must be handed in when they resign -- which means no tie between employee and employer exists, potentially preventing future lawsuits relating to the company.

At the firm's Guangdong factory in China -- one of two in mainland China -- at least five workers have committed suicide in the last three years, the report claims.

In a statement to Reuters, Apple said in response to the report:

"We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made. Every year Apple inspects more factories, going deeper into the supply chain and raising the bar for our suppliers. In 2012 we conducted 393 audits at supplier facilities around the world."

Biel Crystal Manufactory employs over 60,000 workers, 40,000 of which are stationed at Guangdong.

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