Apple denies harsh, harmful working conditions at iPhone factory in China

apple in china
A woman looking at her phone passes by an Apple Store in China Reuters

Apple Inc is once again caught in the hot water after a labour watchdog in China released a report that uncovered the real working situation in its main supplier, including the handling of poisonous chemicals without proper gloves or masks. The iPhone maker, however, denied the veracity of the report, stating that they have not violated any labour standards in the country.

Catcher Technology Co, Apple's partner manufacturer for its iPhone and MacBook cases based in the city of Suqian, has been at the centre of scrutiny by advocacy group China Labor Watch (CLW). In a 62-page report, CLW has highlighted the company's rights violations including discriminatory hiring policies, lack of safety training, long work hours and low wages.

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The group identified major issues with regards to occupational health and safety, pollution and work schedules. After interviewing factory workers and going undercover at the company's complex, CLW found out several counts of violations.

Based on Apple's supplier-responsibility standards, the watchdog identified 14 violations, ranging from a failure to address the risk of handling toxic chemicals to forcing interns to pay for uniforms.

"Supplier shall provide and maintain a safe work environment and integrate sound health and safety management practices into its business," states Apple's supplier code of conduct.

"Workers must be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Workers shall have the right to refuse unsafe work and to report unhealthy working conditions."

It found out repulsive health-related incidents such as a woman who miscarried her baby at work, a 26-year-old man who suffered from persistent rhinitis reportedly due to metal dust, and a 32-year-old woman who endured a hearing loss.

CLW reached out to Apple to investigate the said conditions at the factory before releasing the report. In its own audit, Apple refuted the group's claims as there was no evidence of violations of its standards. Catcher also has similar findings.

"We know our work is never done and we investigate each and every allegation that's made. We remain dedicated to doing all we can to protect the workers in our supply chain," an Apple spokesperson tells Bloomberg.

Aside from Apple, Catcher also supplies products for Dell, IBM, HP, Sony, Lenovo, LG and other big technology companies.

This article was first published on January 17, 2018