BBC shines spotlight back on Apple’s poor working conditions in Asia


Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

In a documentary set to air tonight called Apple’s Broken Promises, BBC One went undercover at Pegatron, one of Apple’s main supply chain partners in China. The findings from inside Pegatron’s walls show that “Apple’s promises to protect workers were routinely broken,” according to the report.

Another alarming revelation was that Apple could be using tin dug by impoverished children in illegal Indonesian mines. Apple is denying the allegations, but BBC One is committed to unearthing a sensitive topic the iPhone maker has spent years trying to put to rest.

BBC One found “standards on workers’ hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached” at Pegatron, which employs over one million Chinese works to make devices like the iPhone 6. The poor working conditions observed by undercover reporters posing as factory workers are reminiscent of The New York Times’ 2012 findings at Foxconn, Apple’s largest supply chain partner.

One of the BBC One’s undercover reporters was subjected to 16-hour shifts, and another had to work 18 days in a row “despite repeated requests for a day off.”

“We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions,” Apple told BBC One before its documentary premieres tonight in the UK at 9:00 PM. “We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done.”

Children were subjected to mining the tin by hand in “extremely dangerous conditions”

Beyond the problems at Pegatron, BBC One traveled to Bangka, a remote Indonesian island where minerals are mined for Apple’s products. Not only was evidence found “that tin from illegal mines could be entering its supply chain,” but children were subjected to mining the tin by hand in “extremely dangerous conditions.” One 12-year-old who worked at the bottom of a 70-foot sand pit said, “I worry about landslides. The earth slipping from up there to the bottom. It could happen.”

“The simplest course of action would be for Apple to unilaterally refuse any tin from Indonesian mines,” Apple said in a statement. “That would be easy for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism. But that would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation. We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground.”

For what it’s worth, Apple is widely considered the most transparent corporation on earth in terms of regulating its supply chain partners. It regularly publishes updated responsibility reports and lists detailed data about its partners on its website.

After airing tonight on BBC One, Apple’s Broken Promises will be available for streaming on BBC iPlayer.

13 responses to “BBC shines spotlight back on Apple’s poor working conditions in Asia”

  1. Kr00 says:

    I’m all for fair and safe working conditions, by all employers, but this is minuscule compared to what Samescum get away with in their factories. Unions can’t inspect them, not even government officials can inspect them, and with claims of child labor hanging over their heads, you’d have to ask why they can’t or won’t open their factories up to honest scrutiny, and they own their factories, unlike Apple who outsource to third parties. I’d love to see the BBC do the same with Samescum.

    • RageOfReason says:

      Excellent defense, “Hey, Pol Pot didn’t murder as many people as Hitler did”

    • Jesus. I just watched the full BBC Investigation titled “Apple’s Broken Promises” which aired on television in the UK.

      In the documentary, BBC sent reporters into Apple Factories, only to find that a typical workweek is 70+ hours. Due to stress, most Apple Factory Workers are only able to get in 5 hours of sleep, so they sleep on the production line. They also interviewed the family of a 14-year old whom died after working for 4 weeks. This is the family whom the Apple’s factory paid off.

      Also, and in addition to this, Apple Factory Workers are coached on filling out forms, documents, and also training– answers Apple wants to see on paperwork is broadcast over loudspeakers and PA system. All this helps Apple Factory Workers to create a fake audit trail.

      Later in the program, the BBC investigators research Tin and other materials used in soldering components, only to find a twice-widowed woman whose husbands both died from being buried alive while mining for the metal. The reporter found not one, but two components companies Apple says are “compliant” and provide solder and tin to Apple.

      I suggest looking online or possibly recording it on Cable (BBC America); and draw your own conclusion after seeing the full video yourself.

      Especially if you bought Apple products or their stock because they were “socially responsible”. It’s very eye-opening.

      • Bob says:

        You seem to have missed the fact that this is not an ‘Apple Factory’. It is a Pegatron Factory. Apple don’t get a free pass but, but why are Pegatron not the ones expected to sort this out, or the Chinese authorities?

      • Kr00 says:

        All well and good, but firstly, it isn’t a factory run or owned by Apple, so by that degree or right do they have to tell others how to run their factories, and secondly, far worse conditions and reports of child labor have emerged for years, under Samsung run factories. Unlike the BBC report, nobody has been allowed access to verify or dismiss the horrors reported out of Samsung factories. So until we see the full picture, its all rather irrelevant. You don’t happen to work for Samsung do you?

  2. site7000 says:

    So, Apple is terrible compared to what? If the answer is “perfection,” which appears to be the case, the report is crap. Everything looks bad compared to perfection. Did they compare Apple today to Apple last year or their current competitors? Oh, sorry, that would take work. You might actually need to report on things they’ve improved, which would ruin the “narrative.”

  3. Roxy Balboa says:

    This is same British who looted & raped their colonies. Have they accounted for that yet?

  4. CelestialTerrestrial says:

    What a bunch of BULLCRAP. Apple farms out production to another company. Apple doesn’t RUN these outsourcing companies. These outsourcing companies also have other customers like Dell, HP, etc. etc. etc. Apple isn’t allowed to sit in these factories and monitor everything they do on a day to day basis.

    It’s like I go to a store and buy a product, what happens if the store owner wrongfully terminates an employee, am I at fault for this? I’m just the customer. Same thing with Apple. Apple is Pegatron, Foxconn, etc. customer. Why are these losers at the BBC blaming the customer for what their supplier does without their knowledge?

    Oh wait, I forgot, if the story was about Foxconn or Pegatron, nobody would watch or even care. I’m wondering if they are going to blame Apple for Samsung violating Apple’s IP by copying their products. Apple should know better, they shouldn’t allow Samsung to copy their products. Sounds like that would be the same logic. /s

  5. CelestialTerrestrial says:

    Maybe the BBC asked Apple for some free product and Apple denied them and this is how the get back at Apple for not supplying the BBC with a bunch of free product. I’m sure that might be something that’s happening behind the scenes. /s

  6. z-west says:

    What role do the countries play, that pander to companies like Apple, with cheap labor and lax regulations. What is china doing to ease worker suffering?

    In the mean time, since they will never build in Apple junk in America, I will reap benefits of the cheap labor.

    Thanks china, for treating your people like crap =D