Improvement or just Public Relations? China Labor Watch challenges Apple’s statement on Pegatron

November 9,2020 (New York)Today in a statement, Apple said it had stopped giving “new business” to Pegatron Corp. after discovered several weeks ago that the labor code had been violated on Pegatron’s factories in Shanghai and Kunshan. However, China Labor Watch questions the reliability and accuracy of Apple’s statement due to the following facts. 

The executive director of CLW, Li Qiang wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook on September 8th to inform him that CLW had received complaints from student workers who were arranged to work at Kunshan Pegatron and were prohibited from leaving the factory. Furthermore, workers were not paid their full wages and promised rewards. On September 10th, Apple Supplier Responsibility Team responded in an email to China Labor Watch claiming that except for the incident regarding the disrespectful behavior of managers who were throwing workers’ factory cards on the ground, Apple denied CLW’s other allegations related to forced labor conditions in Pegatron’s factories.

Li Qiang wrote to Mr. Tim Cook again on October 13th and provided him other details including the contact phone number of a student intern worker who was forced to work overtime at Pegatron’s factory. CLW also contacted Yuan Yang at the Financial Times who went to Kunshan to investigate and was preparing to publish her report. However, Apple responded to CLW last Friday that prior to receiving CLW’s email, their employees on site at Pegatron Kunshan “had discovered that students had been misclassified as regular workers”. And today, Bloomberg published a report on Apple’s discovery of labor violations and suspension of new business with Pegatron before Yuan Yang could complete her investigation.

Apple’s audit failed to recognize serious labor violations at their supplier factories. On September 10th, they denied the labor violations despite evidence provided by CLW. Since then, Fu Jie, a dispatched worker has died after he was forced to work overtime in the Chinese National Day holiday week. His family protested at the Pegatron Kunshan factory gate demanding information and a thorough investigation into his death. So far, his family members have been taken away by the police and detained at the local Public Security Bureau three times and were detained for more than 12 hours once. Apple still denies that any workers have died at the factory.

Li Qiang, Executive Director of CLW, says,”The reason Apple is not increasing orders to Kunshan Pegatron is because Kunshan Pegatron has a lot of orders at the moment and can’t complete them in time. On November 9th, Kunshan Pegatron was still hiring workers. During Spring, when it is off peak season, Kunshan Pegatron will be able to meet Apple’s requirements, and they can continue receiving orders. This is a common trick by audits conducted by multinational companies and there is nothing new about these tactics. The company finds issues during peak season, asks the factory to address the issues and the factory makes improvements during off-peak season. Then during peak season, problems come up again. This happens over and over again. Next year, Pegatron will still continue to receive orders from Apple.”

 

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发件人: Qiang Li <qiang@chinalaborwatch.org>
Date: 2020年9月8日周二 上午10:08
Subject: Letter From China Labor Watch to Apple( Kunshan Pegatron)
To: <tcook@apple.com>, Supplier Responsibility <supplierresponsibility@apple.com>

Mr. Tim Cook, CEO
Apple
One Apple Park Way
Cupertino, CA 95014

September 8, 2020

Dear Mr. Tim Cook,

Recently, a video was circulated on Chinese social media of staff at Kunshan Pegatron throwing workers’ factory cards onto the ground for them to pick up. This is extremely humiliating and disrespectful to workers. Additionally, we have also received complaints from Kunshan Pegatron workers regarding the factory’s mistreatment of workers.

Issues with the employment of dispatch workers and student workers have been long-standing at Apple’s supplier factories. In 2016, we contacted Apple regarding student workers who were owed wages at Jabil Greenpoint, and in 2017, workers at the same factory protested the factory’s failure to pay promised rewards. This year, we found student workers who were arranged to work at Kunshan Pegatron and their school prohibited them from leaving the factory. Furthermore, workers experienced months long delays in receiving their rewards, which were promised previously, for working at the factory.

Below, we have highlighted some of the major issues we have found at Kunshan Pegatron:

 
• At first, workers had a rest day for every six days they worked. From August 17, 2020 workers only had a rest day for every eight days they worked.
• Workers are pushed to meet high production targets and sometimes need to use their rest breaks to clear products that have accumulated on the machines.
• Meal breaks are frequently delayed.
• The line leader arbitrarily arranges work meetings to delay the time workers finish their shift.
• When a shift falls on a holiday, the factory would arrange for workers to work on Sunday instead.
• Many workers came to work at the factory because of the rewards. Workers were promised rewards if they worked for 55 days, but the 55 days only includes regular work days from Monday to Friday and weekends do not count. This means workers are to stay at the factory for three months. After three months, workers then have to wait for the list of names of workers who are to receive rewards to be released, and this delays the process for another month. There were some workers who haven’t received their rewards for five months.
• Many students were assigned to work at Pegatron, and their school did not allow them to leave. The students could only leave without going through the formal resignation procedures, which meant they may not receive their wages.
• New workers should be able to resign from the factory by giving three days’ notice, but in reality, the factory may not agree.
• To resign, workers need a stamp and signature from the manager for the resignation form, but they are required to pay 500 to 700 RMB to the labor dispatch company or the line leader for this. If workers do not pay, then staff will delay the process and not stamp their resignation form.
• Factory staff treat workers terribly, scolding them harshly sometimes until they cried.

These rights violations reveal that Apple is falling short of its commitment to “ensure that every workplace provides a safe and respectful environment for everyone” as mentioned in the company’s recently released human rights policy. For years, we have highlighted issues at Apple’s supplier factories, in the hopes that the company will take steps to fundamentally improve the working conditions of workers. We strongly urge Apple to address the aforementioned issues at the Kunshan Pegatron factory.

Thank you very much and we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Li Qiang
Founder & Executive Director
中国劳工观察
147 W 35 Street #406
New York NY 10001
www.chinalaborwatch.org

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发件人: Apple Supplier Responsibility <supplierresponsibility@apple.com>
Date: 2020年9月10日周四 下午10:41
Subject: Your recent letter
To: <qiang@chinalaborwatch.org>
Cc: Apple Supplier Responsibility <supplierresponsibility@apple.com>

Thank you for your recent letter. We take any allegation seriously and hold our suppliers to the highest standards in the industry. People are at the heart of everything we do and we work hard to make sure everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect.

As soon as we became aware of the recent incident at Pegatron’s Kunshan facility, we immediately launched a thorough investigation and escalated our concerns to senior management. We have dozens of Apple employees at Pegatron Kunshan and we also rapidly dispatched a team of investigators to the site. Pegatron also took swift action, terminating the two employees involved and apologizing to their new recruits. We interviewed over 100 workers at the facility and reviewed materials and documentation and found no evidence of any additional incidents.

Our teams are working closely with Pegatron’s senior leadership to continue to strengthen their procedures related to the recruitment, hiring, and on-boarding of new employees.

We regularly audit Pegatron facilities and have investigated the incidents you list below, some of which date back several years and all of which we found to be untrue. The only exception to this is in relation to working hours. We began tracking working hours in 2012 and all suppliers are required to adhere to our standards, we have verified again that there are no issues of non payment of wages.

We regularly assess our suppliers to ensure that our strict requirements are met. Last year we conducted 1,142 supplier assessments in nearly 50 countries and, since 2008, over 19 million suppler employees have been trained on workplace rights.

We will continue to work with Pegatron, as we do with all Apple suppliers, to ensure that our standards are being upheld.
 
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发件人: Qiang Li <qiang@chinalaborwatch.org>
Date: 2020年10月13日周二 下午3:29
Subject: Re: Letter From China Labor Watch to Apple( Kunshan Pegatron)
To: <tcook@apple.com>, Supplier Responsibility <supplierresponsibility@apple.com>
 
Dear Mr.Tim Cook,

Last time I wrote to Apple about student intern workers and forced overtime in Pegatron’s factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu. Your audit team responded that they found no such violations after interviewing over 100 workers.

Recently we are in touch with a 17-year-old student intern worker. He is a student from the Yangcheng Vocational High School. The factory forced these student interns to work overtime. If they do not work in the factory, the school will not issue them a graduation certificate. Because he made defective products on the assembly line, his supervisor verbally abused him and forced him to leave the assembly line. Then he resigned without getting paid. I have his contact number and a handwritten letter. Please see the attachment. He said that he was forced to work in order to get his graduation certificate from the school, like all other student intern workers, who don’t have a copy of their employment contract because all contracts they signed are kept by their teachers.

If his school and Pegatron’s factory find out about his allegation, he believes that he will lose his graduation certificate, and will be given other forms of punishment. I have attached his cellphone number and hope your colleagues in China will protect his personal information.

I am also looking forward to hearing from you once the investigation is completed.
 

Name: XX XXXX

Age: 17

The reason for working in the factory: 
An internship is arranged by my school as part of the graduation requirement. For all students who choose to take the national college entrance exam, they must complete a 4-month internship. For all students who choose not to take the national college entrance exam, they must complete a 6-month internship. 

The reason for leaving the job:
I was appointed as an office clerk and worked for three months in the position. After a recent viral video showing the electronic contractor Pegatron’s recruiters throwing work passes onto the ground when issuing them to new hires in a plant in Kunshan, Jiangsu, a large number of non-student workers were recruited. They were promised a high amount of reward after several months of work. Some of the non-student workers bribed recruiters so they would be give an easier task and all student interns in clerical positions were replaced by them. All student interns including myself were sent to work on the assembly line. I was working overtime on a Saturday night shift when a team leader verbally abused me and refused to assign me to a different position. I could not take it so I resigned on September 28. 

The process of leaving the job:
Before I resigned, I went to ask the office staff with a classmate if student interns could get paid after resignation. They said, “no wage at all” and refused to answer my question directly.

The reason why I did not get paid:
The staff at the service center in the factory said, “no wage for those who quit.” On payday October 9, I did not get paid because I resigned from my job. 

Tel: 156XXXXX

Overtime:
Usually 2.5 hours a day, sometimes 3 hours a day. But we had to work overtime on both Saturdays and Sundays. The full workday is counted as overtime on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Li Qiang
Founder & Executive Director
中国劳工观察
147 W 35 Street #406
New York NY 10001
www.chinalaborwatch.org
 
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发件人: Apple Supplier Responsibility <supplierresponsibility@apple.com>
Date: 2020年11月6日周五 下午9:20
Subject: Response from Apple
To: <qiang@chinalaborwatch.org>

Dear Li Quiang,

Thank you for writing to us. We are dedicated to ensuring everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect, values that have long defined our company and our Supplier Responsibility program.

Prior to receiving your e-mail, an Apple employee on site at Pegatron Kunshan had spotted several workers holding a sign congratulating a student on their graduation. We have a student worker approval program which Pegatron had not applied for, so we began an immediate investigation and discovered that students had been misclassified as regular workers.

We worked quickly to ensure the students were returned to their home and schools and receive remedies in the form of financial compensation. We are working with Pegatron on a corrective action plan. As always, our commitment is to make sure people across our supply chain are treated with dignity and respect.

Thank you again for writing in.

Apple Supplier Responsibility
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