A report by the Hong Kong based group, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), details poor working conditions at Chinese factories which manufacture iPad 2 and HP laptops. The report claims that Foxconn, the company which owns the factories, treats workers “inhumanely, like machines.” At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories killed themselves in the last 16 months. One of the factories investigated by SACOM required workers to sign a pledge that they will not commit suicide.
SACOM researchers visited four Foxconn factories: two factories in Chengdu and Chongqing, and two factories in Longhua and Guanlan. The researchers interviewed about 120 workers, most of them “frontline workers” but also interviewed about 10 supervisors or managers.
The report details the abuses SACOM researchers discovered, including:
Miscalculated wages. Workers told SACOM researchers that they experienced miscalculation of their wages, resulting in less pay, and delays in receiving their pay slips.
Forced overtime. The factories violated the 36 hour overtime work limit under Chinese law, and some workers told the researchers that “overtime work is not entirely voluntary.” Chengdu factory workers usually work 80 to 100 overtime hours in addition to the 174 hours per month. Shenzhen workers usually work 50 to 80 overtime hours a month. Chongqing workers usually work two overtime hours per day. However, during SACOM investigations, it was the low season at the factory.
Unsafe working conditions. The researchers found that “occupational health and safety issues in Chengdu are alarming.” Workers are not adequately trained to use chemicals, work without proper ventilation, and lack proper protective equipment.
The report noted that Apple “commends the measures taken by Foxconn to improve working conditions, SACOM finds predicaments of workers remain.” However, researchers found that the same working conditions remained. Apple claims on its website that it is “committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base.”
In a statement, Apple claimed, “We drive compliance with the code through a rigorous monitoring program, including factory audits, corrective action plans and verification measures.”
The SACOM report allows the world to know what conditions are like for Chinese workers in the electronics industry, who otherwise would lack a voice. Debbie Chain, author of the report, noted that “Chinese workers in the electronics industry lack opportunities to organize themselves, express their grievances or negotiate wages.”
Leontien Aarnoudse of the NGO, makeITfair said, “While Apple reports a net profit of US$5.99 billion for the first quarter this year, workers in its supply chain work excessive overtime for a salary they can hardly live on.”