Apple in trouble in China

While Apple might have hoped that the dust had settled after it tried to take steps to improve life for employees at its China plant, it would appear that the company is still in trouble.

A New York-based labour rights group claims that Apple suppliers in China have violated local labour laws by forcing excessive overtime and skimping on insurance.

As you would expect, it named Terry Gou’s Foxconn. But China Labour Watch said in a 133-page report that Foxconn was not the only bad apple. In fact virtually all other Apple supplier factories are significantly more dire than Foxconn.

It carried out a four-month investigation through April which discovered that workers work up to 180 hours of overtime a month during peak periods, exceeding the legal limit of 36 hours per month. Riteng, which is a unit of Taiwan’s Pegatron, was a shining example of this sort of thing.

Some factories also omit medical insurance as required by the law while workers are exposed to dangerious conditions.

The report was compiled after talking to 620 workers at 10 factories including Toyo Precision Appliance, BYD Electronic, Quanta Computer, Wintek Corp and Jabil Circuit.

Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman based in Cupertino, California, told Reuters that as part of its ongoing supplier responsibility program, Apple has conducted thorough audits at every facility in China Labor Watch’s report.

In some places, Apple’s auditors found problems similar to those described by China Labor Watch, including overtime violations, she said.

Riteng was probably the worst for dismal work conditions. Workers work almost 12 hours a day, longer than 10 hours a day at Foxconn, Apple’s main supplier.

Half of Riteng’s workers thought safety conditions were “bad” whereas only two percent at Foxcon said the same thing.

The average hourly wage at Riteng is $1.29.

James Wu, a spokesman for Catcher Technology, which was also mentioned in the report, said the proportion of short-term labour it employs without having to provide severance compensation was actually lower than that described by China Labor Watch.

He said his company’s dispatch rate is 20-30 percent, lower than the rate of around 80 percent mentioned in the report.