Apple staff in China work in 'deplorable' conditions

Staff making the iPad work 11-hour days, live in dirty quarters and face hazards in the workplace
  • @martin_hickman

Factory workers making Apple's gadgets lead worse lives than those at the militaristic Foxconn facility which was hit by a spate of worker suicides two years ago, according to a report published yesterday.

An investigation by China Labor Watch found that workers assembling the iPad and other best-selling products experienced "deplorable" conditions including a basic 11-hour day, excessive overtime, low wages, overcrowded and dirty dormitories and hazardous working conditions. Other problems comprised inadequate trade unions, excessive use of agency labour, poor food and routine cheating of overtime pay.

Apple admitted it had a human rights problem at its biggest Chinese supplier, Foxconn, in February when it launched an investigation by the Fair Labour Association following the suicide or attempted suicide of 13 Foxconn staff . In a report in March, the FLA found "serious and pressing" concerns over excessive working hours, unpaid overtime and health and safety failings, prompting Foxconn and Apple to promise they would end the abuses within a year. But according to China Labor Watch (CLW) – which investigated 10 Apple suppliers in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Jiangsu Province for the first four months of this year – abuses exist across Apple's Chinese suppliers and are worse at non-Foxconn factories.

. CLW's researchers visited factories undercover, interviewed workers and obtained questionnaires from 620 staff. It said workers could take off one day a month, but, sometimes during peak demand, they worked every day for several months. All the factories except Foxconn City made heavy use of short-term "despatched labour", whose pay and conditions were worse than contracted staff.

Apple, the world's biggest company, did not dispute CLW's findings. In an email to Reuters, Kristin Huguet, spokeswoman for the company wrote: "As part of our ongoing supplier responsibility program, our team has conducted thorough audits at every facility in China Labor Watch's report. In some places, our auditors found issues similar to those described by China Labor Watch, including overtime violations."