Apple is back in the spotlight for labour violations at the Chinese factories that manufacture its products – surpassing the violations widely reported at Foxconn last year.

China Labour Watch (CLW) has published an investigative report detailing the labour violations of three factories of Pegatron Group, a major supplier to Apple. In 2013, Apple has increased its orders to these factories, which have benefitted from and relied upon labour violations to increase their competitive edge.

CLW’s investigations revealed at least 86 labour rights violations, including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations.

The violations fall into 15 categories: dispatch labour abuse; hiring discrimination; women’s rights violations; underage labour; contract violations; insufficient worker training; excessive working hours; insufficient wages; poor working conditions; poor living conditions; difficulty in taking leave; labour health and safety concerns; ineffective grievance channels; abuse by management; and environmental pollution.

In short, the Pegatron factories are violating a great number of international and Chinese laws and standards as well as the standards of Apple’s own social responsibility code of conduct, the report concludes.

In May 2013, Apple heralded that its suppliers had achieved 99% compliance with Apple’s 60-hour workweek rule, this despite the fact that 60 hours is a direct violation of China’s 49-hour statutory limit, according to CLW.

This “accomplishment” is further discredited by the fact that average weekly working hours in the three factories probed by CLW are approximately 66 hours, 67 hours, and 69 hours, respectively, the report says. For instance, in Pegatron Shanghai, investigation uncovered that workers were forced to sign forms indicating that their overtime hours were less than the actual levels.

“Indeed, a number of Apple’s social responsibility promises are being broken, including those related to worker safety, protecting the environment, and more,” says a CLW statement.
“None of the Pegatron factories investigated here, for example, provide sufficient safety training to workers. At Riteng and AVY, waste water is disposed of directly into the sewage system, polluting the local water source.
“Conditions at these factories are so poor that most workers refuse to continue working for long. In a period of two weeks, 30 of 110 new recruits at AVY left.”

CLW executive director Li Qiang comments: “Our investigations have shown that labour conditions at Pegatron factories are even worse than those at Foxconn factories. Apple has not lived up to its own standards. This will lead to Apple’s suppliers abusing labour in order to strengthen their position for receiving orders. In this way, Apple is worsening conditions for workers, not improving them.”

From March to July 2013, CLW sent investigators into the three Pegatron Group factories to carry out undercover investigations and conduct nearly 200 interviews with workers outside the factories.

The factories included Pegatron Shanghai (producing the iPhone), Riteng (a Pegatron subsidiary in Shanghai producing Apple computers), and AVY (a Pegatron subsidiary in Suzhou producing iPad parts). Together, these three Pegatron factories have more than 70 000 employees.