Apple slammed over latest Chinese supply chain allegations

Apple slammed over latest Chinese supply chain allegations

Apple store facade image by pio3 via Shutterstock.com.

Apple is facing fresh questions over alleged workers' rights violations and environmental mismanagement in its Chinese supply chain, following the publication of a major new report [PDF] from the China Labor Watch (CLW) group.

The report details an investigation into a number of facilities operated by Apple supplier Pegatron, where it claims to have uncovered 86 labor rights violations, including underage labor, excessive working hours, health and safety concerns and environmental pollution.

The investigation primarily focused on labor rights issued, but also alleged that Pegatron's RiTeng and AVY facilities were guilty of disposing of waste water directly into the sewage system, polluting the local water source.

"Our investigations have shown that labor conditions at Pegatron factories are even worse than those at Foxconn factories," said CLW Executive Director Li Qiang in a statement, referring to the last Apple supplier to have faced allegations of worker rights violations. "Apple has not lived up to its own standards. This will lead to Apple's suppliers abusing labor to strengthen their position for receiving orders. In this way, Apple is worsening conditions for workers, not improving them."

In a lengthy statement, Apple said it would investigate the claims made by CLW with immediate effect.

"Our audit teams will return to Pegatron, RiTeng and AVY for special inspections this week. If our audits find that workers have been underpaid or denied compensation for any time they've worked, we will require that Pegatron reimburse them in full," the statement reads. "Our audits involve a thorough review of timecards and other documents to guard against falsification. We will investigate these new claims thoroughly, ensure that corrective actions are taken where needed and report any violations of our code of conduct. We will not tolerate deviations from our code."

The company declined to respond to the specific allegations over water pollution. But it insisted it remained fully committed to the responsible management of its supply chain.

"Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain," the company said. "We lead the industry with far-reaching and specialized audits, the most transparent reporting and educational programs that enrich the lives of workers who make our products ... As a part of our extensive Supplier Responsibility program, Apple has conducted 15 comprehensive audits at Pegatron facilities since 2007, covering more than 130,000 workers making Apple products including annual audits of Pegatron's final assembly locations and surprise audits at both RiTeng and AVY within the past 18 months."

Pegatron's chief executive, Jason Cheng, also issued a statement insisting the firm would take immediate steps to investigate the allegations.

"We will investigate them fully and take immediate actions to correct any violations of Chinese labour laws and our own code of conduct," he said.

Earlier this year, Apple published a comprehensive Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, which was widely hailed as an industry-leading exercise in transparent reporting.

That report admitted the company had uncovered a raft of labor rights and environmental management violations, including revelations that nearly 150 suppliers had failed to comply with the correct protocols for managing hazardous chemicals.

The company said that as a result of the audit it was now working with many of its suppliers to improve their performance and ensure that they complied with its code of conduct.

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.

Apple store facade image by pio3 via Shutterstock.com.