Apple investigating claims of labor violations from Chinese supplier

PegatronAnother Chinese factory is at the center of a labor violation scandal. This time it is a contractor used by Apple in the development of their iPhone and iPad devices.

Reports confirm that human rights and labor violations at Pegatron Corp have been reported by various organizations through China. Among those violations are poor living and working conditions, overcrowded dorms, unknown fine print in contracts dictating the months that have to be worked to avoid fines, the withholding of pay and the taking of identification cards workers need to seek work elsewhere.

While they are now conducting an investigation, Apple claims they have already held regular audits and surprise inspections of the factory. They admit that they found evidence of some supervisors withholding ID cards and demanded it be stopped. But they deny any knowledge of further violations, and those claims are now being checked up on.

A statement was released by Pegatron Corp Chief Executive Jason Cheng on the matter.

“We will investigate [the claims] fully and take immediate actions to correct any violations to Chinese labor laws and our own code of conduct.”

This comes on the heels of another scandal related to an Apple contracted supplier out of China. In 2010 company Foxconn was cited for various human rights abuses, being accused of running “labor camps” that forced long hours on employees, put them in very overcrowded living quarters, didn’t properly mandate safety and did nothing about discrimination against mainland Chinese workers.

When a fourteen suicides were reported from the company in that single year, media attention was grabbed around the world. An audit was done by Apple and non-profit organizations dedicated to fair labor laws. Many violations were confirmed during this time, and while Foxconn promised to do better there have still been many more reported through 2012.

As a consequence, Apple has been moving production over to Pegatron Corp.

Chinese factories are well known for violations in labor laws and human rights. Cheap production continues to push big brands to use such suppliers, and until they refuse to do so it doesn’t seem likely that this kind of thing is going to change. Just moving production to another factory that is slightly less violating than the one before it isn’t real progress. It is the lesser of two evils.

But maybe I am being cynical, and Pegatron Corp really will make an effort to eliminate the violating practices in their factories. Only time will tell, but I won’t be holding my breath. Apple response came just few hours later later:

Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain. We lead the industry with far-reaching and specialized audits, the most transparent reporting and educational programs that enrich the lives of workers who make our products. Apple is the first and only technology company to be admitted to the Fair Labor Association, and we are dedicated to protecting every worker in our supply chain.

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. Apple surveys working hours for more than 1 million employees across our supply chain each month and we report the findings on our website.

We have been in close contact with China Labor Watch for several months, investigating issues they’ve raised and sharing our findings. 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.

Their latest report contains claims that are new to us and we will investigate them immediately. Our audit teams will return to Pegatron, RiTeng and AVY for special inspections this week. If our audits find that workers have been underpaid or denied compensation for any time they’ve worked, we will require that Pegatron reimburse them in full.

Our audits involve a thorough review of timecards and other documents to guard against falsification. We will investigate these new claims thoroughly, ensure that corrective actions are taken where needed and report any violations of our code of conduct. We will not tolerate deviations from our code.

Apple believes in transparency and accountability, both for our suppliers and ourselves. We realize being a leader in workers rights and being transparent with our findings opens us to criticism, but we believe strongly that we can make a big difference in the lives of millions of people by doing so and this provides us the courage and resilience to continue the journey. We are proud of the work we do with our suppliers to uncover problems and improve conditions for workers. By vigorously enforcing our supplier code of conduct, we ensure that our suppliers follow the same principles and values we hold true.

Source: WSJ

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