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Originally published January 8 2015

Apple factory workers routinely abused, exploited by corporate greed - BBC investigation

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) China may be experiencing unprecedented economic growth, perhaps even now surpassing the U.S. as the world's No. 1 economy, but the manner in which the Asian giant is achieving its status is a throwback reminder to some of the darkest days of the U.S. industrial revolution.

Factories that force workers to put in long, exhausting hours for minimal wages. Poor working conditions. Few benefits. No ability to organize.

Many of these problems and issues turned up in a new BBC Panorama investigation recently, in which the British television giant found poor treatment of workers in various Chinese factories where Apple products were being manufactured.

Indeed, the investigation found, undercover filming on an iPhone 6 production line discovered that Apple's promises to protect its workers were broken early and often.

Also, BBC reported:

It found standards on workers' hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached at the Pegatron factories.

Working long hours, many days

But, as one might guess, Apple officials have strongly disagreed with the investigation's conclusions -- despite the video evidence, which included filming exhausted workers falling asleep on their 12-hour shifts at the Pegatron facility on the outskirts of Shanghai.

One undercover reporter, who worked in a factory making parts for Apple's Mac computers, was forced to work 18 days straight despite putting in repeated requests for days off. Another reporter's longest shift was 16 hours; the report said, "Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn't want to move. Even if I was hungry I wouldn't want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress."

Apple officials refused to be interviewed for the investigative program, but instead, the company released a statement:

We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions.

We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done.

The electronics giant added that it was very common for workers to nap during breaks, but that officials would nonetheless look into any information or evidence suggesting that they might actually be falling asleep while working. Apple officials also said the company monitored the working hours of more than 1 million workers and that the staff at the Pegatron facility were averaging 55 hours a week in work.

The BBC program's investigation is not the first time that working conditions at Chinese factories have been an issue of concern. In fact, the report noted that poor conditions in various Chinese factories were thrust to the forefront in 2010 when 14 workers at Apple's biggest supplier, Foxconn, killed themselves because of stress on the job.

Getting children to do the dangerous work

Following those suicides, Apple put out a set of standards detailing how factory workers should be treated. Also, the electronics company moved some of its production work to Pegatron's factories.

"But Panorama's undercover reporters found that these standards were routinely breached on the factory floor," the program said in its report. "Overtime is supposed to be voluntary, but none of the reporters were offered any choice. In addition to the excessive hours, one reporter had to attend unpaid meetings before and after work. Another reporter was housed in a dormitory where 12 workers shared a cramped room."

Apple said the dormitory overcrowding has since been resolved that the company requires its suppliers to give workers back pay when it is discovered that they have not been paid for work meetings.

Factory managers at Pegatron told the BBC program they were investigating the claims carefully. They pledged to take any action necessary to correct deficiencies.

"Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities," factory officials said in a statement to the program. "We set very high standards, conduct rigorous training for managers and workers, and have external auditors regularly visiting our facilities to find areas for improvement."

Separately, Apple also says it maintains ethical standards when sourcing minerals necessary to manufacture its products, but the program still found evidence that tin from illegal mines is likely entering its supply chain.

In particular, undercover reporters found children as young as 12 digging tin ore by hand in extremely dangerous conditions.


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