At this point, it seems like a safe bet to just assume that all Apple products are made by slave labor. You just got a new fancy pants iPhone 5? Congratulations. You’re holding the product of forced overtime, low pay, and unsafe working conditions. Mazel Tov!
To be fair, the entire consumer electronics industry is probably sourcing its products from slave labor, but that’s too depressing to get into right now.
A damning report released Monday by the advocacy group China Labor Watch reveals widespread and systemic abuses at three Pegatron facilities in China, including—but not limited to—withholding pay, confiscating workers’ ID cards (which would prevent them from being able to find work elsewhere), mandating long hours, forcing employees to work up to 14 unpaid hours a month, and so, so much more.
The report has many calling Pegatron “worse than Foxconn,” which, you might recall, came to everyone’s attention in 2010 with a string of employee suicides.
China Labor Watch sent several undercover investigators into three Pegatron facilities: Pegatron Technology, AVY Precision Electroplating, and Riteng Computer Components. Pegatron supplies parts to other companies aside from Apple, such as Dell, Microsoft, and HP. Pegatron Technology and Riteng primarily produce cell phone and computer parts for Apple while AVY produces iPad parts. AVY is also said to produce for Nokia, Panasonic, HP, Dell, Asus, Acer, and Sony.
Investigators found that forced overtime was rampant, and employees who refused to work one overtime shift were punished by not being able to work any overtime shifts for a month. This is problematic because Pegatron pays such abysmally low wages (the equivalent of $1.50 an hour or $268 a month before overtime, when the average wage in Shanghai is $764 a month). This means employees are dependent on overtime to survive.
Underage workers and pregnant women—both of whom are protected by Chinese law from working long hours—were forced to work 11-hour shifts six days a week. Tacked onto those 11-hour shifts were daily 20-minute meetings that employees were required to attend, but were not compensated for.
Investigators described dangerous working conditions, including insufficient fire escape routes, lack of fire prevention training, and insufficient safety training. And life in the dorms is just as miserable, with 12 workers to a dorm room and only a handful of showers for hundreds of workers—often with no warm water.
Particularly troubling is that with all of this slave labor bullshit, workers who quit might not even see wages owed to them. This is especially true among workers recruited by dispatch companies. Some 90% of Pegatron’s employees come from dispatch companies, and workers who quit in their first three months may be fined 600 RBM ($97) and be denied their wages.
Oh yeah, and workers were also fined for everything from not attending those unpaid meetings to neglecting to push their chair in after eating.
Apple released a statement Monday in which it revealed that it already knew about many of the issues raised in the report as it has been in “close contact” with CLW for months:
As a part of our extensive Supplier Responsibility program, Apple has conducted 15 comprehensive audits at Pegatron facilities since 2007, covering more than 130,000 workers making Apple products including annual audits of Pegatron’s final assembly locations and surprise audits at both RiTeng and AVY within the past 18 months.
Additionally, we have closely tracked working hours at all of these facilities. Our most recent survey in June found that Pegatron employees making Apple products worked 46 hours per week on average. Excessive overtime is not in anyone’s best interest, and we work closely with our suppliers to prevent it.
True: Apple does audits, but they’re ineffective and meaningless, according to CLW’s report. Firstly: most of the audits are scheduled in advance, giving the facilities time to prepare. Secondly: Apple relies on a self-reporting system to ensure employees aren’t working excessive overtime hours. CLW’s investigators found that many employees were forced to sign falsified overtime record sheets stating they had only worked 40-some-odd hours instead of the 63-69 hours a week they were actually working.
And then there was this in Apple’s statement:
When they first told us that workers’ ID cards were being withheld, an auditor from our Supplier Responsibility program was on site the next day to investigate. We confirmed that labor brokers for Pegatron were holding a small number of IDs as they helped set up bank accounts for those employees. We demanded Pegatron put a stop to this practice and a new system was in place within a week.
Everything is wrong with this. First of all, minimizing the problem to say only a “small number” of IDs were confiscated is patronizing. Secondly, don’t say you fixed the problem while simultaneously saying there wasn’t a problem to begin with.
Jesus, Apple…I just can’t with you today, okay? I. JUST. CAN’T.
Image source: itproportal.com