New Investigation Finds Apple’s Failure To Protect Workers In Chinese Factories
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Electronics factory in Shenzhen

Apple said that it disagreed with the BBC's conclusions on labor issues in China

In a documentary aired Thursday night called Apple’s Broken Promises, BBC One reports multiple instances of poor working conditions of employees inside the factory’s production line tasked with assembling Apple's latest iPhone 6 smartphones.

At a Pegatron factory just outside the outskirts of Shanghai, one of Apple’s main supply chain partners in China, there were routinely broken guidelines with unruly hours of work, poor living conditions, ID card confiscation, work meetings and underage workers being breached in day-to-day operations.

The broadcast is the latest in a long line of reports concerning worker rights at Apple's factories. From the footage, it appears the most outrageous breaches involve long working hours. As per Apple standards, overtime is optional for workers at its supplier factories, however BBC reporters found additional work was built in to their contracts.

For its part, Apple said that it disagreed with the BBC's conclusions on labor issues in China, a country known for its dodgy treatment of workers as seen through the Westerners.

"We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions," Apple said in a statement. "We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done."

Earlier, Pegatron made news for allegedly breaking China's labor regulations. In 2013, labor rights watchdog China Labor Group came across wage and safety infringement at various plants operated by the iPhone and iPad partner supplier. Similar to the BBC's investigation, CLW saw ID cards being confiscated and workweeks that often exceeded Apple's specified 60-hour limit.

The BBC flagship programme Panorama also visited Bangka Island in Indonesia to check on metal ore collectors who gather tin and other minerals to sell to smelters on Apple's list of suppliers. Children were found digging by hand for tin in mud pits under unsafe conditions. They are at endless risk of being buried in deadly landslides as the walls of the makeshift opencast mines are doused in order to sheath off more mud and expose more tin ore for iPhone parts.

According to reports, the entire electronics industry is responsible for over half of the world's tantalum consumption, but it is not a major consumer of tin, tungsten and gold. Without substantial purchasing power companies like Apple have little sway with smelters or collectors of those minerals.

"The simplest course of action would be for Apple to unilaterally refuse any tin from Indonesian mines. That would be easy for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism," Apple said in regard to Bangka. "But that would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation. We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground."

 

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