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Apple, Foxconn broke Chinese labor law to build latest iPhones

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg News on

Published in Science & Technology News

It added that its "work to address the issues identified in our Zhengzhou facility continues and we will closely monitor the situation. We will not hesitate to take any additional steps that might be required to meet the high standards we set for our operations."

Apple releases an annual supplier responsibility report that details working conditions in its supply chain. In its latest report, Apple said it conducted 44,000 interviews with supplier employees last year to check if they were properly trained and knew how to voice concerns, while taking new steps to prevent forced labor.

In late 2017, Apple found Foxconn had employed high school students who worked illegal overtime to assemble the iPhone X. Apple sent specialists to the facility to work with management on systems that ensured appropriate standards were followed.

Foxconn is the largest of a coterie of gadget assemblers that produce most of the world's consumer electronics from sprawling Chinese bases. Typically operating on wafer-thin margins, they employ millions of mostly migrant and temporary workers because activity tends to wax and wane with shopping seasons and fluctuations in demand.

Dispatch workers don't receive benefits that full-time employees get, such as paid sick leave, paid vacations and social insurance, which provides medical, unemployment and pension coverage, according to CLW. While base wages can be higher for dispatch workers, they are paid by third-party firms on a short-term basis and are not employed directly by Foxconn, CLW says. Dispatch workers can become official factory workers after an initial three-month period, according to the group's report.

Last month, Foxconn said it fired two executives at one of its Chinese plants after another CLW investigation found the company was relying heavily on temporary workers and teenage interns to assemble Amazon.com Inc. Echo speakers. Foxconn reviewed the Hengyang facility and found the proportion of contract workers and student interns had on occasion exceeded legal thresholds, and that some interns had been allowed to work overtime or nights.

 

The group, which also monitors conditions in myriad industries from apparel to retail, has run reports in the past on suppliers to the likes of Nike Inc. and Adidas AG and, recently, probed a factory that manufactured Ivanka Trump-branded shoes.

Apple and Foxconn seek to produce about 12,000 iPhones per shift at the Zhengzhou factory, CLW's latest report found. Last year's iPhone XS models were more complex to build than the iPhone X, requiring more workers, the group also said.

According to emails seen by Bloomberg, Apple told CLW in August that it was looking into the findings and had questions about the report. The company sent an investigator to the factory and met with Foxconn officials to discuss the heavy use of dispatch workers, but Apple and Foxconn are still allowing the activity despite violating the 10% standard, CLW said.

The CLW report also detailed other findings, such as:

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