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Chinese kit builder for Apple and Dell charges workers for water

Let a thousand jaws drop
Fri Sep 05 2014, 13:37

A CHINESE ASSEMBLY PLANT that supplies firms including Apple and Dell has been found to be charging its workers for drinking and washing water and a number of other workplace failings.

The allegations are in a Green America and China [Labour] Watch report about a Taiwanese company called Catcher Technology that makes cases for phones and other hardware.

According to the report (PDF) workers were charged for drinking water but given access to hazardous chemicals for free.

Green America said that many of the labour violations are longstanding, and were highlighted in 2013 and previously. It discovered these practices in an onsite investigation.

"The investigator discovered extensive violations of Chinese [labour] laws, as well as violations of Catcher's policies and Apple's Supplier Code of Conduct, which details standards for worker rights and environmental sustainability for any company supplying to Apple," it said.

"Many of the violations were similar to those found in a 2013 investigation of the same plant, the results of which were shared with Apple by China [Labour] Watch."

In its statement, which is rather long, Apple said that it is committed to safe and fair working conditions and is glad to be a member of the Fair Labor Association. Yesterday we reported that Greenpeace is rather pleased with the firm and its green leadership.

"Catcher Technology's Suqian facility makes aluminum enclosures for Macbook and iPad, and our inspectors are there constantly. We audit the facility's [aluminium] wet-polishing systems every month and consistently find that they exceed international safety standards," said an Apple spokesperson.

"Our most recent annual audit, in May, found some concrete areas for improvement in Catcher's operations, and we worked with Catcher to develop a corrective action plan. We had scheduled a follow-up visit next month to review their progress but have dispatched a team there immediately to investigate this report."

Apple added that it keeps a lid on what could be called "excessive overtime" and works with suppliers to prevent it. "Catcher has averaged 95 percent compliance with our 60-hour workweek limit this year," Apple said.

During the investigation Green America and China [Labour] Watch found a number of violations including a hiring policy that bans people over 40 and people with tattoos. The report found that workers have to sign to say that they have had safety training, despite not actually having had any.

Fire exits and doors are reportedly shut and locked and a mix of smoking staffers, no fire drills, hazardous chemicals and a lack of safety training make up for a unpleasant sounding workplace. Overtime, the report added, is "mandatory".

We asked Dell to comment, and like Apple it said that it carries out its own investigations and cleans up operations when issues arise. It added that it is working with Catcher on the reported issues.

"Any reports of poor working conditions in Dell's supply chain are investigated and appropriate action is taken. Dell expects our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities. We enforce these standards through a variety of tools, including the Electronics Industry Coalition code of conduct, business reviews with suppliers, self-assessments and audits," it said in a statement.

"We are working with Catcher to address issues. Because we have an extensive global supply chain, Dell recognizes its responsibility to work with suppliers promoting sustainable environmental practices, the health and safety of people, and fundamental human rights and dignity." µ


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