The Washington Post

Apple looks into new allegations of labor violations in China

A woman walks past an Apple Inc retail store in Beijing, China, 06 September 2013. Apple has lately been critizised for alleged labor abuses at Chinese iPhone plants. EPA/HOW HWEE YOUNG (HOW HWEE YOUNG/EPA)

Apple is facing a fresh round of allegations of labor abuses in its supply chain, this time at a facility run by supplier Jabil Circuit.

In a report published Thursday by China Labor Watch, the group said that the rush to produce a cheaper version of Apple’s iPhone is coming at “high cost” to workers at the Jabil facility in Wuxi, a city in Eastern China.

Jabil Circuit is based in St. Petersburg, Fla. The company could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

China Labor Watch said it has found a number of “legal and ethical” violations at the factory, including excessive working hours, insufficient training, and poor employee working and living conditions.

As the report notes, these are widespread troubles throughout the supply chain for electronics companies. But China Labor Watch said that conditions at the Wuxi facility directly flout the public efforts and promises that Apple has made in the past about fixing labor problems within its supply chain. The company releases annual supplier responsibility reports based on regular audits of its facilities, reports working hours monthly on its Web site and is also a member of the Fair Labor Association. That group conducts independent audits of member-company facilities.

Those efforts, China Labor Watch said, haven’t managed to eliminate abuses within the supply chain where most of the company’s products are produced.

“Despite half a decade of outside investigations and self-reporting on myriad labor abuse throughout its Chinese supply chain,” the group said in a press release. “Apple has continually failed to compel supplier factories to conform to Apple’s code of conduct and local labor laws before giving these suppliers Apple production orders.”

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement that the company takes these allegations very seriously and that a team is already at the Wuxi facility to look into these new claims. In the past, Huguet said, audits of Jabil factories have turned up few issues. The company has conducted 14 audits of Jabil facilities since 2008, including three of the Wuxi facility in the past 36 months.

“Year to date, Jabil Wuxi has performed above our 92 percent average for compliance with Apple’s 60-hour per week limit,” she said. “An audit completed earlier this year did find that some employees had worked more than six consecutive days without a day of rest, and Jabil has been working with our team to better manage overtime.”

Labor rights groups have repeatedly criticized big tech companies, such as Apple and Samsung, for conditions at their facilities around the world where workers produce gadgets such as smartphones and tablets.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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