Workplace Issues

Apple Accused of Exploiting Overseas Workers

China Labor Watch says Apple must take more responsibility for improving labor conditions; Apple says it has.
Katie Kuehner-HebertFebruary 12, 2015

A watchdog group contends that Apple is still exploiting workers overseas. The computing giant  “consistently suppresses labor costs by shifting production to cheaper manufacturers,” which has led to “poorer labor conditions,” says China Labor Watch.

According to a report CLW released Wednesday, Apple shifted production orders in China from Foxconn to cheaper supplier Pegatron to offset Foxconn’s rising labor costs. Research of Pegatron workers’ paystubs revealed an average of 60-plus working hours per week. Moreover, 52% of workers completed more than 90 hours of overtime per month, some working as many as 132 hours of overtime.

“Workers desire overtime because their base wages are too low; base wages cannot meet the local living standard,” the group wrote in a press release announcing the report. “Apple must take more responsibility for improving labor conditions.”

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On its web site, Apple’s senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams posted an update on “Supplier Responsibility” to the company’s 2015 Progress Report: “People sometimes point to the discovery of problems as evidence that our process isn’t working. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every violation we unearthed in the 633 supplier audits we conducted last year offered an opportunity to make concrete changes for the better.”

After audits by third-parties, Apple repaid more than $3.96 million to foreign contract workers for excessive recruitment fees charged by labor brokers. It also paid nearly $900,000 to workers for unpaid overtime, Williams wrote.

Williams added that, while audits and corrective actions are essential, the “greatest opportunity for change comes from worker empowerment and education,” and as such, more than 2.3 million workers in 2014 were trained on Apple’s code of conduct and their rights.

A Reuters article Thursday said another labor watchdog report in August also outlined excessive overtime and unpaid wages at Apple suppliers, which led to Apple’s code of labor standards for suppliers and the hiring of third-party auditors to enforce compliance.

“CLW, however, said Apple’s pursuit of low costs could encourage some suppliers to try to cut corners,” Reuters wrote.