Apple is transferring costs from the trade war through suppliers, says China Labor Watch © SOPA/LightRocket/Getty Images
Apple is transferring costs from the trade war through suppliers, says China Labor Watch © SOPA/LightRocket/Getty Images

Apple supplier slammed for use of temp workers

10 September 2019

An investigation into working conditions at the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory where many of Apple’s iPhones are produced has revealed labour abuses.

Investigators from China Labor Watch worked at the 1.4m sq meter plant to compile a dossier of issues around temporary workers, overtime and pay.

The report came as Apple prepared to unveil the latest iPhone 11.

One person worked undercover over four years as part of the investigation and found that while conditions have been improving in some areas, in others they remain poor.

They said that Chinese authorities often fail to enforce their own legislation in the factory and have urged Apple to enforce its own suppliers code of conduct to press for changes.

The investigation found that the base wage of $295 was still insufficient to sustain the livelihood of a family living in Zhengzhou.

While social insurance contributions have increased from 2015 to 2018 they are still below the legal minimum.

And pre-job safety training was halved from two days to one in 2017.

One of the biggest criticisms in the report concerns Foxconn’s reliance on temporary agency workers and student workers.

In 2018, dispatch workers made up 55% of the workforce, even though Chinese labour law says such dispatch workers must not exceed 10% of the workforce.

It said that to manage the influx of orders during peak season, Foxconn forced student workers to work overtime hours and to complete internships unrelated to their degree.

Outside agencies are responsible for attracting these workers, and to do so these workers are often offered bonuses once they have worked for a certain period. However, many workers said they had never been paid their bonus.

Workers who fail to meet referral quotas often have overtime hours removed as a form of punishment.

Meanwhile others are forced to work excess overtime, with some working 100hrs overtime a month – above the legal maximum of 36 overtime hours a month.

“The Chinese government does not properly enforce laws, especially laws regarding labor rights. Multinational corporations helped drive economic development in China but they have also exploited loopholes in Chinese labor laws,” said the report.

“On the other hand, Apple has done very little to improve the rights of workers in their supplier factories. Apple claimed they care about every worker on the production line, but in fact, workers are paid wages that are close to or equivalent to the local minimum wage.”

It said its most recent findings on working conditions at Zhengzhou Foxconn highlight several issues which are in violation of Apple’s own code of conduct.

“Apple has the responsibility and capacity to make fundamental improvements to the working conditions along its supply chain,” it said.

“However, Apple is now transferring costs from the trade war through their suppliers to workers and profiting from the exploitation of Chinese workers.”

Apple has been contacted for comment.

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