Source: The Wall Street Journal
A new report by two U.S.-based nonprofit organizations alleges safety and environmental violations at a China plant run by an Apple Inc. supplier, illustrating the scrutiny the technology giant and its suppliers in China face over labor issues.
The report, released Thursday by Washington, D.C.-based Green America and New York-based workers-rights group China Labor Watch, alleges some workers at the Chinese factory run by Taiwan's Catcher Technology Co. work with toxic chemicals without protective equipment and must put in excessive paid overtime of up to 100 hours a month, including working on their feet over 10 hours a day, six days a week. The organizations said they found that windows and fire exits were locked at the factory. The report didn't specify how many times.
The report also alleges that industrial waste such as metal scraps and oils were dumped into a sewer, with some ending up in a river near the facility in the city of Suqian, in eastern China's Jiangsu Province. It also says some parts of the factory produce aluminum-magnesium alloy dust, which is flammable.
The nonprofits say the report is based on more than 100 interviews with Catcher employees and on the experiences of a worker who was paid by the groups to work at the plant in August.
While the report details the worker's experiences over a period of three days, Kevin Slaten, China Labor Watch's program coordinator, said the worker worked at the factory between one and two weeks.
Mr. Slaten said the experiences outlined in the report cover only a portion of the worker's time there, and that his group fears providing more specific details could lead to retaliation from the plant's managers against the worker.
Since 2012, Apple has been shifting orders to various suppliers as it looks to diversify beyond its biggest assembler, Foxconn, formally called Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.
Foxconn has previously been under scrutiny by labor organizations including China Labor Watch as it is Apple's largest assembler.
Following several worker suicides in 2010, Foxconn reduced overtime by boosting automation among other efforts to improve labor conditions at its China factories.
Catcher, based in the city of Tainan, Taiwan, is a supplier of metal casings for major electronics brands, and its largest client is Apple, analysts say.
"We are deeply concerned about the claims…and we take the report very seriously. We are committed to following Apple's supplier code of conduct and will
investigate thoroughly," Catcher Technology said in a statement.
Apple said in a separate statement that the Catcher factory produces aluminum enclosures for Apple's iPads and MacBook computers, and that it checks the plant's aluminum polishing systems monthly, consistently determining that they "exceed international safety standards."
"Apple is committed to ensuring safe and fair working conditions for everyone in our supply chain," it said in the statement.
It also said that it works with suppliers to track weekly working hours for more than 1 million workers and through the end of August, Catcher has averaged 95% compliance with Apple's 60-hour workweek limit this year.
Apple also said its most recent fire-safety check took place at the Catcher facility last week and that it conducted an annual audit in May, during which time it found "concrete areas for improvement." The company said it has scheduled a follow-up visit next month to review Catcher's progress but has dispatched a team there to investigate the conditions cited in the report.
Combustible metal dust, a widely known industrial hazard, was cited by Apple for two blasts in 2011 at factories in China that supply it with electronics. In a report in 2012, Apple ordered suppliers to adopt new guidelines to deal with dust hazards. Earlier this month, at least 68 people were killed in a suspected dust blast at a factory in eastern China that supplies the country's automobile industry.