'Even worse than Foxconn': Apple rocked by child labour claims

China Labour Watch links 'competitive advantages' offered by illegal labour practices with plans for a new, cheaper iPhone

Apple sailed into fresh controversy on Monday over conditions at its Chinese suppliers’ factories amid allegations of child labour, forced overtime and illegal 66-hour working weeks.

The allegations were made by the US-based China Labour Watch (CLW) after an investigation into conditions at three factories operated by Pegatron, which makes equipment for Apple computers and iPhones. It found 86 violations of labour rights, from the staff recruitment process to conditions on the factory floor to the state of workers’ dormitories.

The inquiry followed the controversy over conditions at another Chinese supplier to Apple, Foxconn, where workers were found to have high suicide rates and poor working conditions. Industry analysts said Pegatron has been successful in winning Apple contracts from Foxconn in recent years.

Perhaps most shocking was the way Pegatron hired children under the age of 18 and made them work in the same poor conditions as adult staff. In total there were 10,000 aged between 16 and 20 working in crowded production rooms doing the same tasks as adults. But some were paid less and others did not have their wages paid on time.

The CLW investigators said: “Despite its professed high standards for the treatment of Apple workers, serious labour violations have persisted… Apple must prioritise its efforts [to halt] the abuse of workers making Apple products.”

CLW’s executive director, Li Qiang, said: “Our investigations have shown that labour conditions at Pegatron factories are even worse than those at Foxconn’s. Apple has not lived up to its own standards.”

CLW claimed Pegatron was winning business from Foxconn because its factories all “use the labour violation advantage”. Among other things, this meant forcing employees to do overtime, and in some cases threatening to withdraw it for a month if they refused to work whenever asked to. Average working weeks were 66 hours, with six 11-hour days. Twenty minutes of that day was unpaid; the rest was $1.50 (£1) an hour before overtime. That is less than half the average local monthly income of $764 and far below the basic living wage in Shanghai.

Conscious of the rules on overtime, managers forced workers to sign forms showing their hours were less than the actual levels, the report alleged.

Apple said it had audited Pegatron sites 15 times in six years, and that a recent survey found Pegatron employees working 46 hours a week on average. But it admitted CLW’s report includes “claims that are new to us” and that will need to be investigated “thoroughly.” Pegatron also said it took the allegations “very seriously”.

The claims and counter-claims

Apple claims: We limit work weeks to 60 hours.
CLW claims: Most production workers did 66-69 hours at Pegatron.

Apple claims: All overtime must be voluntary.
CLW claims: All three Pegatron factories demand overtime.

Apple claims: We don’t tolerate underage labour. Juveniles must be given special treatment.
CLW claims: Many under-18s worked the same long hours and same conditions as adults.

Apple claims: Managers are trained on anti-harrassment and worker protection.
CLW claims: Supervisors harassed and abused workers by swearing at them and threatening collective punishment.

Apple claims: Suppliers must provide proper protective gear and up-to-date training.
CLW claims: Training was minimal; many workers did not wear masks despite dealing with dangerous chemicals.

Apple claims: We do not tolerate environmental violations.         
CLW claims: Industrial wastewater was poured directly into the sewage system.

CLW's report can be read in full here and Apple's response here.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Support / Projects Engineer

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Director - Product Management

    £75000 - £85000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the largest and fastes...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Installation / Commissioning Engineer - North West

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Installation / Commission...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence