Apple, Foxconn accused of violating Chinese labor laws

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On Sunday, Bloomberg revealed Apple and Foxconn had violated Chinese labor regulations ahead of the release of the new iPhone. Watchdog group China Labor Watch (CLW) reported half the staff at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant was comprised of temporary workers. Chinese law mandates corporations make temporary employees 10 percent of their total workforces.

Both Apple and Foxconn confirmed the CLW’s findings regarding the staffing at the Zhengzhou factory. However, both organizations also pledged to take action to correct their labor problems.

What the CLW Found

Founded in 2000, the CLW’s mission is to investigate Chinese factories maintained by multinational corporations for potential labor violations. Accordingly, the organization installed undercover investigators at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou facility. The group’s agent discovered 50 percent of the factory’s workforce were temporary “dispatch” workers.

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Last month, large numbers of student interns departed the factory to return to school. Consequently, the number of dispatch workers employed by Foxconn dropped to 30 percent.

Apple told Bloomberg it conducted an investigation which concluded the Zhengzhou plant’s workforce was not in compliance with Chinese law. The Big Tech firm pledged to work with Foxconn to fix the issue. Separately, Foxconn confirmed it would bring its factory in line with regulations following an operational review.

The CLW explained Chinese dispatch workers aren’t entitled to benefits like sick pay, vacation time, or medical insurance. The organization also stated Apple and Foxconn brought in extra temps to hit manufacturing quotas of 12,000 iPhones last year.

The watchdog group also alleges a range of other labor violations took place at the Zhengzhou facility. The CLW claimed the factory’s staff could not resign, had to attend unpaid staff meetings, and had to work without protective equipment. The organization also reported some workers put in over 100 hours of overtime per month despite Chinese law putting the limit at 36 hours.

In response to the CLW’s findings, Apple said most of the organization’s allegations regarding the plant’s working conditions are “false.” Moreover, the corporation claimed, “all overtime work was voluntary, and there was no evidence of forced labor.”

Accountability is Unlikely

Despite admittedly violating local labor laws, Chinese authorities are unlikely to truly hold Apple or Foxconn to account for the conditions at the Zhengzhou’s factory.

Bloomberg’s Alex Webb explained in spite of current trade tensions between the U.S. and China, Beijing will probably be reluctant to crack down on either company. For one thing, if the Chinese government harshly penalized either organization, they might seek to relocate production out of the mainland. If that happens, the Asian superpower could lose millions of jobs.

Indeed, the Trump administration’s taxes on imported Chinese made goods have already prompted Apple to change its supply chain. In June, the corporation reportedly asked its suppliers to investigate moving 15 to 30 percent of their manufacturing capacity out of China. Furthermore, Foxconn founder Terry Gou asked the firm to relocate its production facilities to Taiwan that same month.

Besides, reports of inhumane labor conditions at Apple-centric Foxconn facilities have dogged the two corporations for years. In most instances, the two corporations have responded to adverse reports with a combination of denials and promises of reform. Nevertheless, incidences of reported labor abuses have continued, and the Chinese government hasn’t taken action. As such, there’s no reason to think Beijing will behave differently in this case.