According to a labor rights group in New York, while Foxconn attempts to improve working conditions, there are serious workers’ rights violations at Apple’s other Chinese suppliers. Li Qiang, Executive Director of China Labor Watch, stated in a letter (which can be see in this investigation report) to Apple CEO Tim Cook that conditions at Foxconn are still unsatisfactory but that Foxconn treats workers better than some of Apple’s other suppliers in China.
According to the report that was released on Wednesday, Apple’s Chinese suppliers mistreat workers by making them work overtime beyond legal limits, paying low wages, and exposing workers to dangerous working conditions.
Li wrote in the report of the investigation that serious work-related injuries and worker suicides do not only happen at Foxconn, but these work-related tragedies exist throughout Apple’s supply chain.
The violation of workers’ rights and abuse of factory workers making Apple products became more public early this year when a New York Times story described the poor working conditions at these factories.
Foxconn factories came under investigation by the Fair Labor Association and a report was issued in March revealing underpay, worker abuse and health and safety risks. Since this report, Foxconn and Apple have teamed up and promised to rectify these issues.
China Labor Watch investigated ten factories of Apple’s suppliers from January to April and found the widespread use of ‘dispatched workers,’ which means these workers have no formal relationships with the factories, and are instead under contractual agreement with the ‘dispatching companies’ that have hired them.
In 2011, Foxconn in Shenzhen transfered all dispatched workers to direct-hire status. In the other factories investigated, up to 90 percent of labor was from dispatched workers.
According to the report, most times workers don’t know they are signing a contract with a a labor dispatch company, rather than the actual factory they work at. Using dispatch workers prevents workers from forming unions and allows factories to employ workers only short-term without having to pay severance compensation and frees them from responsibility for work-related injuries.
The report states that dispatched workers have no limit on the amount of overtime that can be worked. As a result, some work more than 150 hours of overtime a month, way above China’s legal limit of 36 hours of overtime a month.
Labor dispatching is a big issue that Apple needs to rectify because it is not addressed in its Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports and it greatly impacts workers’ rights. If Apple were to recognize this gap in the Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports and make amendments to it, the report argues that the number of supplier factories that meet Apple’s standards would decrease a considerable amount.
Clearly workers’ rights violations continue to be a huge problem for Apple suppliers. While Foxconn is attempting to make adjustments, greater strides need to be taken to improve working conditions in all of Apple’s supply factories.