A New York City-based watchdog, China Labor Watch (CLW), published a report last Sunday that alleges that Apple and its manufacturing partner, Foxconn, have violated Chinese labor laws.
For the past couple of years, CLW has been monitoring the conditions of workers at some of Foxconn’s facilities in China. In the report, their investigation found that more than half of the workforce employed at the factory located in Zhengzhou, China in August were temporary hires. These hires are referred to as dispatch workers and these include student interns.
Foxconn’s facility in Zhengzhou is known as Apple’s “iPhone City”. It is the largest iPhone factory in the world. This facility spans 1.4 million square meters and it produces half of the iPhones sold worldwide.
According to the report, Foxconn has been employing student workers and dispatch workers. The student workers are said to be forced to do work that is unrelated to their degree and they are asked to work overtime hours.
Foxconn also outsources its hiring to dispatch companies. These companies offer bonuses to workers who are hired for a certain period. The bonuses vary depending on the demands for workers at the factory.
In the past, it was rare for Foxconn to recruit dispatch workers. However, after 2016, it has opted to hire dispatch workers as this helps fill the labor shortage that it experiences during peak production seasons for Apple products. The number of dispatch workers at the factory now make up about 50% or more of the total workforce.
During their peak seasons, Foxconn recruits a large number of dispatch workers. These workers work for a short amount of time and have higher wages compared to regular workers. The company has resorted to hiring more short-term workers as the cost is lower than hiring more regular employees.
Based on Chinese labor law, a company’s temporary hires should not exceed 10% of the total number of employed workers. The number of student workers has lessened due to them returning to school. This has also led to a decrease in the number of temporary workers. However, the figure is still more than what Chinese law specifies.
Apart from letting student workers put in the time and hiring more dispatch workers than the law allows, the report also includes some other violations.
Factory workers are asked to put in at least 100 overtime hours a month during its peak production seasons. This violates the Chinese labor law which states that they must not work more than 36 overtime hours per month.
During peak season, regular workers who submit their resignations are denied. Also, the factory fails to provide its workers with the appropriate protective equipment. Workers are also not receiving any occupational health and safety training.
The report also alleges that the factory does not even report work-related injuries. There are also other alleged violations including verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
Over the years, Apple has been criticized over the poor working conditions of its supply chains. According to the tech giant, it has asked its suppliers to improve labor practices if they still want to maintain their working relationship with Apple.
Foxconn has yet to respond to the allegations. However, Apple has issued a statement. In its statement, Apple looked into the report and said that most of the allegations are false.
“We believe everyone in our supply chain should be treated with dignity and respect. 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,” the statement reads.
Apple has also said that if they find any issues, they work with their suppliers and take immediate corrective action.
“We have confirmed all workers are being compensated appropriately, including any overtime wages and bonuses, all overtime work was voluntary and there was no evidence of forced labor,” adds Apple’s statement.
Apple has also addressed the issue regarding dispatch workers. During its investigation, the Cupertino-based tech company found that the percentage of dispatch workers exceeded their standards. They said they are now working closely with Foxconn to resolve this issue.