Apple has said that it will investigate allegations that one of its manufacturers used high school students to build Apple Watches in China.
The news came to light late last week, when the Hong Kong-based labor rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) said it had received a report. Today, Apple issued a statement saying previous audits revealed no cases of underage labor, but that it will carry out its own investigations.
According to SACOM, students aged 16 to 19 were made to work shifts during internships, put into jobs unrelated to their field of study, and made to work excessive overtime — including overnight shifts. If true, all of these would be in violation of both Apple’s own standards and Chinese regulations as well.
Apple says that it audited the factor in in Chongqing three times between March and June, and found nothing. However, “We have zero tolerance for failure to comply with our standards and we ensure swift action and appropriate remediation if we discover code violations,” the company’s statement said.
The Taiwan-headquartered Quanta Computer has said that it does not take school students for internships. It also noted that it is working with Apple for the investigation.
“We are like robots on the production lines,” one of the students said in the original complaint. “We repeat the same procedure for hundreds and thousands of times every day.” The 18-year-old said that they had a daily target of assembling 1,200 Apple Watches on the production line.
Underage workers on Apple production lines
This wouldn’t be the first time similar accusations have been leveled at Apple suppliers. In 2012, Foxconn admitted to using interns as young as 14. In 2013, meanwhile, one 15-year-old employee died after working on the iPhone 5c production line.
To its credit, Apple has been proactive in dealing with these complaints. However, this is unlikely to be the last time that similar issues are raised within Apple’s enormous supply chain.