Apple and Foxconn Admit Hiring Too Many Temporary Workers in China to Assemble iPhones, Potentially Violating Labor Laws

Monday
Apple and manufacturing partner Foxconn have admitted to recruiting too many temporary staff in one of the world’s biggest iPhone factories, following a report from a non-profit advocacy group alleging harsh working conditions (via Bloomberg).


China Labor Watch (CLW), which investigates conditions in the country’s factories, published its report on Sunday accusing the two companies of breaching several Chinese labor laws, including one barring temporary staff from exceeding 10 percent of the total workforce.

CLW said undercover investigators worked in Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant in China and found that temporary staff, known as “dispatch workers,” made up about 50 percent of the workforce in August, when the supply chain is usually ramped up ahead of new iPhone releases. Chinese labor law allows a maximum of 10 percent.

Our recent findings on working conditions at Zhengzhou Foxconn highlights 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, however, Apple is now transferring costs from the trade war through their suppliers to workers and profiting from the exploitation of Chinese workers.

In a statement, Apple said it investigated the percentage of temporary workers among the overall workforce and found it “exceeded our standards,” and said it was working with Foxconn to “immediately resolve the issue.”

In addition, Apple said it had found that interns at a supplier facility worked overtime at night, something which violating company policy, but that it had corrected the issue. The company said the interns worked overtime voluntarily and were properly compensated.

Despite the admissions, Apple rebutted allegations of lapses in people management and declined to comment on whether the excess amounted to a breach of Chinese labor law.

“We believe everyone in our supply chain should be treated with dignity and respect,” Apple said in a statement. “To make sure our high standards are being adhered to, we have robust management systems in place beginning with training on workplace rights, on-site worker interviews, anonymous grievance channels and ongoing audits.”

Separately, Foxconn also admitted it had discovered an over-reliance on temporary workers dispatch workers and said it “immediately began a detailed process to ensure that all issues were addressed.”

Around 12,000 iPhones are assembled per shift at the Zhengzhou factory, according to CLW’s report. However, Apple’s 2018 iPhone XS models were said to be more complex to build than 2017’s iPhone X and therefore required more workers.

This isn’t the first time Apple and Foxconn have come in for criticism over working conditions in Chinese iPhone factories. In 2017, the companies confirmed instances of high school students working overtime to assemble the iPhone X when they shouldn’t have been allowed.

Both companies took remedial action over the issue, and Apple sent specialists to the manufacturing plant to work with management to ensure standards were properly followed.

In its latest annual supplier responsibility report, Apple said it conducted 44,000 interviews with supplier employees in 2018 to make sure they were properly trained and knew how to voice concerns. Apple also said it was taking new steps to prevent forced labor.

Apple will hold its annual iPhone-centric event on Tuesday, September 10 at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus, where it is widely expected to unveil three new iPhones alongside an Apple Watch refresh and other announcements.

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