- An investigation by China Labor Watch (CLW) has discovered violations related to occupational health and safety, pollution and work schedules at the Suqian Catcher Factory, a major supplier for Apple’s MacBook and iPhone 8 in Jiangsu, China, CLW reported.
- An episode of toxic gas poisoning also occurred at the Catcher Factory in May 2017. Workers interviewed by CLW revealed toxic gas sent 90 people to the hospital, with five needing intensive care, Spend Matters reported.
- Apple conducted its own internal investigation after the violations were reported and found no abuses.
Worker abuse remains an ongoing problem within the supply chain, despite watchdog efforts.
CLW sent one of its own staff members into the Catcher Factory to witness alleged abuses first hand.
"The poor conditions at Apple's supplier factories have stemmed from the company's attempts to maintain profitability by keeping labor costs low," Elaine Lu of CLW told Supply Chain Dive.
Though Apple is not alone in experiencing supplier abuse of workers, deaths at its Foxconn affiliate continue to haunt the technology giant, along with the revelation of student laborers working illegal overtime hours in advance of the iPhone X release.
"Apple has attempted to improve matters, but this has been very limited," Lu said. "Wages have increased, although this is due to increases in minimum wage standards over the years. The company recently purchased social insurance for all workers in Pegatron factories in Shanghai according to actual wages earned and plans to purchase social insurance for workers across all factories in China."
Given these circumstances, an industry call for a single set of supplier standards seems ideal, depending on what type of investigators are hired, and who pays them.
Arguments about the effectiveness of company-hired auditors have largely gone unacknowledged within the supply chain, though disruptions caused by interrupted work triggered by fires, employee injury or payment issues can cause problematic delays or worse.
While undercover reporters argue in favor of neutral media oversight, most companies continue to hire non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor international factories for human rights abuses.
"Apple does make efforts to address some of the issues we have discovered in their supplier factories; however, widespread rights violations persist," Lu said.