On June 14th 2012, a Foxconn worker jumped to his death from his apartment building in Chengdu, marking the 18th reported worker suicide at Foxconn factories in China in just over two years. Many additional suicides may have gone unreported. But these deaths and the focus on conditions at Foxconn reflect only a portion of the troubling conditions at Apple suppliers.
China Labor Watch's investigation of other Apple suppliers in China reveals that serious work-related injuries and worker suicides are by no means isolated to just Foxconn but exist throughout Apple’s supply chain. For example, we found that at least two workers committed suicide at Flextronics’ factories last year (Ganzhou and Zhuhai) and that upwards of 59 workers were injured in explosions at Riteng’s Shanghai factory last December (both are Apple’s supplier fatories). More broadly, this investigation of ten different Apple factories in China finds that harmful, damaging work environments characterized by illegally long hours for low levels of pay are widespread in Apple’s supply, with working conditions frequently worse at suppliers other than Foxconn.
This four-month investigation conducted by China Labor Watch through April showed workers work up to 180 hours of overtime a month during peak periods, exceeding the legal limit of 36 hours per month, citing Riteng, a unit of Taiwan's Pegatron Corp, as an example. Riteng workers work almost 12 hours a day, longer than 10 hours a day at Foxconn, Apple's main supplier. The average hourly wage at Riteng is 8.2 yuan ($1.29), well below the average rate 10.2 yuan at Foxconn.
Apple must take on the responsibility of improving conditions in its supply chain and changing its purchasing system. We hope that Apple will respond to these investigative findings, which go well beyond that of the Fair Labor Association (in a study paid for by Apple). Unfortunately, Apple has never responded to any of China Labor Watch’s investigative findings. Apple has promised this year to improve working conditions in its Chinese supplier factories, but based on its track record of not meeting such promises in the past, we are compelled to ask: are these promises sincere or merely a public relations ploy?
To read more about the investigation report from China Labor Watch, click here:
Change the conditions of workers in their supplier factories in China
Dear Mr. Cook,
I am writing to ask you to verify the findings of a recent investigation by China Labor Watch of Apple’s suppliers in China, and to urge you to take immediate action to improve the working conditions and prevent future labor rights violations in these factories.
In a recent investigation of eleven Apple suppliers, China Labor Watch found that many of these factories overuse dispatched workers. With the exception of Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen which transferred all dispatched workers to direct-hire employees in 2011, all the factories that were investigated overused dispatched labor, including Jabil where dispatched labor made up almost 90% of the workforce. The dispatched workers often received lower salaries, worked longer hours, enjoyed fewer benefits, and had unstable working relationships with their factory. Such problems were overlooked in Apple’s report earlier this year.
In addition, China Labor Watch noted excessive overtime in most of the factories; workers typically worked between 100 and 130 hours of overtime per month, and between 150 and 180 hours per month during the peak production season. This amount of overtime is not only mentally and physically grueling for workers, but it is also in clear violation of relevant Chinese labor laws. The working conditions in the factories are also unsafe for workers, with some work areas so poorly ventilated that the air is thick with metal dust. Equipped with only minimal safety equipment, workers are likely to develop long-term health problems as a result of breathing this toxic air, and these poorly ventilated workshops are also prone to explosions.
The salaries of the workers are so low that they have to work long hours with high work intensity just to maintain a subsistence lifestyle.Workers generally work 11 hours each day, including on weekends and holidays. They can only take one day off every month, and in the peak season they may need to work for several months without a single day off. They work on the assembly line standing on their feet all day, and only have two 30-minute meal breaks each day.
The problems listed above are not isolated to the eleven factories that were investigated; on the contrary, such problems are systematic and exist throughout Apple’s entire supply chain. As the industry leader, Apple must take action to change its labor practices because if it does not adhere to its own Code of Conduct, it will set a bad example to other companies. Apple has made public its commitment to improving working conditions on various occasions. I urge Apple to live up to those commitments.
As the world’s largest and most profitable company, Apple has the resources to improve working conditions in its supplier factories, and with extensive control over its suppliers, it also has the capacity and responsibility to make sure that its suppliers comply with Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct. Apple makes many great products and offers generous compensation packages to its engineers in the US. However, Apple should not forget about the plight of the workers in China who produce its products. I urge Apple to verify China Labor Watch’s investigative findings and take steps to improve the working conditions in its supplier factories in China.