Students are being made to work in a supplier factory in order to graduate, a report alleges ©Apple
Students are being made to work in a supplier factory in order to graduate, a report alleges ©Apple

Apple probes student labour claims in watch supply chain

30 October 2018

Apple is launching an investigation into allegations that students are being made to work illegally at one of its supplier’s factories in China, it has been reported.

The investigation follows the publication of a report by the Hong Kong-based campaign group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) that claimed to have found student being forced to work at a Quanta Computer’s factory making Apple Watches in Chongqing.

The SACOM report alleged that students were being made to work in areas unrelated to their studies, in internships that had “literally nothing to do with learning”, in order to graduate from their programmes.

SACOM also said students were subjected to unlawful shift work, including 12-hour days and night work.

This is in violation of both local labour regulations and Apple’s own standards, the report said.

Neither Apple or Quanta Computer has yet responded to a request from SM. However, Apple told CNN it was investigating the allegations.

It told the news outlet it had audited the Quanta’s Chongqing plant three times between March and June and found no students working on Apple supply chains at that time, but was “urgently investigating” the report that student interns added in September were working overtime and night shifts.

“We have zero tolerance for failure to comply with our standards and we ensure swift action and appropriate remediation if we discover code violations,” Apple told CNN.

Quanta Computer also told CNN it denied the allegations.

SACOM said it conducted 28 face-to-face interviews and a number of online questionnaire with workers at the factory.  It estimated at least half the workers on the factory’s production line were students.

One unnamed 18-year-old student worker told SACOM their department was “basically… composed of student workers from my school, as well as a few senior staff”. The student said there was a production target of 1,200 units a day, which was later raised.

The student added: “We are like robots on the production lines. We repeat the same procedure for hundreds and thousands of times every day, like a robot.”

This is not the first time Apple has been accused of having illegal student labour in its supply chains. Last November the firm admitted that high school students interning at a supplier factory assembling the iPhone X in Zhengzhou, China, were working illegal hours.

Separately, Apple has been ranked the top company in an annual index of environmental supply chain performance. The firm was number one on the Supply Chain Corporate Information Transparency Index (CITI), compiled by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. It was followed by Dell, Levi’s and C&A.

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