Apple supplier denies charges of unsafe, unclean conditions

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An Apple Inc. supplier in eastern China on Wednesday denied allegations by a New York rights group that its workers toil for 10-hour shifts in loud, polluted conditions, without proper overtime pay or adequate safety protections to make MacBook and iPhone parts, before returning to filthy dormitories with cold showers. | China Labor Watch via AP

SHANGHAI — An Apple Inc. supplier in eastern China has denied allegations by a New York rights group that its workers toil for 10-hour shifts in loud, polluted conditions, without proper overtime pay or adequate safety protections to make MacBook and iPhone parts, before returning to filthy dormitories with cold showers.

The charges highlight the difficulty of managing complex global supply chains — even for companies, like Apple, that have publicly embraced ethical sourcing as a business priority.

Catcher Technology Co. Ltd., which runs the factory in Suqian, about 310 milesv northwest of Shanghai, said Wednesday in a statement that it had investigated and “verified that none of the claims are accurate.” Catcher also said it was about to acquire land near the factory to build new dormitories because it was “driven to enhance the living standard for our employees.”

China Labor Watch said its findings, published late Tuesday, were from an undercover investigation that ran from October 2017 to January 2018.

It said workers without proper gloves had irritated, peeling skin on their hands. Others had machine oil splashed in their eyes. The main door of the workshop opened only 12 inches and dormitories lacked emergency exits — clear fire hazards, China Labor Watch said.

The report included photographs of cramped, slovenly dormitories and photos of foamy wastewater that China Labor Watch said was overflowing onto sidewalks.

“Apple needs to uphold their claim of honoring Chinese law,” China Labor Watch executive director Li Qiang said in a statement. Back in 2013 and 2014, China Labor Watch investigated the same factory and flagged similar safety and labor rights violations.

Apple Inc. said it maintains a monitoring team onsite at the Catcher factory, which has made “significant progress” in raising standards since 2012. In response to China Labor Watch’s allegations, Apple said it sent an investigative team to Suqian to interview over 150 workers but “found no evidence that Catcher was violating our standards.”

“We know our work is never done and we investigate each and every allegation that’s made,” an Apple spokesperson said Wednesday. “We remain dedicated to doing all we can to protect the workers in our supply chain and make a positive impact on the environment.”

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