Apple faces new accusations of harsh conditions in supply chain

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Foxconn employees accused of $43 million iPhone scam
Tim Cook meeting one of the factory workers working on Apple products in China.
Photo: Apple

Foxconn isn’t the only Apple supplier to be accused of having hazardous working conditions. According to a new report, manufacturer Catcher Technology Co. — which produces casings for iPhones and MacBooks — also promotes an unsafe work environment in its factories.

This includes getting employees to handle noxious chemicals without the proper gloves or masks; cold, cramped accommodation, and an excessively loud workplace, with noise levels over 80 decibels and a lack of earplugs to protect workers’ hearing.


The article, published by Bloomberg quotes one employee as saying, “My hands turned bloodless white after a day of work … I only tell good things to my family and keep the sufferings like this for myself.” Employees are paid a little over 4,000 yuan a month, which translates to just over $2 per hour.

According to advocacy group China Labor Watch, a probe spanning three months, 50 worker interviews and an undercover investigator found “major issues” with occupational health and safety, pollution and work schedules at the Suqian factory complex run by Catcher. The group has also alleged that wages for resigning workers are not settled the day they quit, as the law requires.

Production lines are supposedly required to “crank out” about 1,450 units during a 12-hour shift, which includes breaks for meals. The Bloomberg report additionally says that workers are given a lack of training about the materials they come into contact with, and sometimes have to switch between multiple machines, which can increase the risk of accidents.

While Apple is not the only Catcher client company, the report notes that Apple makes up around two-thirds of Catcher’s sales. According to Apple, it has carried out its own investigation — including interviewing 150 people at Catcher’s factories — and found no evidence of violations of its own supper responsibility rules.

Working conditions

Apple suppliers have been in the news recently after a Foxconn worker committed suicide this month at the firm’s phone assembly plant in Zhengzhou, China. Prior to this, it was reported that high school student interns worked illegal overtime building the iPhone X at one of Foxconn’s factories.

To be fair to Apple, it has worked diligently to improve conditions at its various suppliers. For the past few years, Apple has achieved around 95 percent compliance with enforcing a maximum 60-hour workweek for people in its supply chain, and has taken steps to reduce the hiring of underage workers.

Nonetheless, as today’s report makes clear (provided it is accurate), there is still work to be done.