Apple and Foxconn Accused of Breaching Chinese Labor Laws

Chinese workers assemble electronic components at the Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen, China. AFP/ AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

China Labor Watch recently released a 51-page report detailing the labor abuses of the US tech giant Apple and one of their main suppliers for iPhone parts, Foxconn. The report concerns events and conditions at a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, Henan, where temporary workers, or “dispatch workers,” totaled as much as 50% of the workforce, exceeding the maximum proportion stipulated by local labor laws of 10%. Both Apple and Foxconn have acknowledged the problematic nature of their over-reliance on temporary employees.

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Apple responded in a statement acknowledging that the amount of temporary workers exceeded their standards, and that the Cupertino-based firm is working with long-time supplier Foxconn to resolve the issue. China Labor Watch explained that the cost of these temporary workers is lower than raising the wages of existing full-time workers, saving the company money overall.

Left: Workers on the way to work; Right: Workers participating in the fire drill (Source: China Labor Watch)

Meanwhile, Foxconn responded to the accusations of overworked employees, “We did find evidence that the use of dispatch workers and the number of hours of overtime work carried out by employees, which we have confirmed was always voluntary, was not consistent with company guidelines.”

The report from China Labor Watch also alleged that interns were working overtime, which is in violation of Apple’s internal company standards. However, Apple also acknowledged that “this has been corrected” and the overtime work was voluntary and properly compensated, dispelling any potential notion of forced labor.

Entrance to Zhengzhou Foxconn (Source: China Labor Watch)

However, according to China Labor Watch, “Chinese labor law mandates that workers must not work more than 36 overtime hours a month. During the peak production seasons, workers at Zhengzhou Foxconn put in at least 100 overtime hours a month regardless. There have been periods where workers had one rest day for every 13 days worked or even had only one rest day for a month.”

Both companies pledged to better adhere to their labor standards, as Apple said, “Everyone in our supply chain should be treated with dignity and respect.” In addition, Foxconn commented, “Our work to address the issues identified in our Zhengzhou facility continues. We will not hesitate to take any additional steps that might be required to meet the high standards we set for our operations.”

The timing of these violations is not ideal for Apple, as the firm is widely believed to be announcing the release of their iPhone 11, a device which Foxconn is integral to producing, this week on September 10.