Ap­ple sends in ex­perts to probe em­ploy­ees’ deaths

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Elec­tron­ics giant Ap­ple Inc said on Thurs­day it has sent in­de­pen­dent med­i­cal ex­perts to one of its ma­jor con­trac­tors in China amid ac­cu­sa­tions that bad work­ing con­di­tions led to sev­eral work­ers’ deaths.

“We are deeply sad about the deaths of la­bor­ers at Pe­ga­tron and have com­mis­sioned in­de­pen­dent med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als from the United States and China to con­duct probes since last month,” Ap­ple said in a state­ment.

“While they have found no ev­i­dence of any link be­tween the deaths and work­ing con­di­tions there, we re­al­ize that is of lit­tle com­fort to the fam­i­lies who have lost their loved ones.”

It added that Ap­ple has a “long-stand­ing com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing a safe and healthy work­place for ev­ery worker in our sup­ply chain”, and the com­pany has formed a team to work with Pe­ga­tron Tech­nol­ogy Co at the con­trac­tor’s plants to en­sure that “con­di­tions meet our high stan­dards”.

Pe­ga­tron, a Tai­wan-based man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany that sup­plies Ap­ple, Sony and Dell, con­firmed on Wed­nes­day that four work­ers at its Shang­hai fac­tory, which has nearly 100,000 em­ploy­ees, had died of dis­eases.

The an­nounce­ment came af­ter New York-based ad­vo­cacy group China La­bor Watch said on Mon­day that sev­eral work­ers at Pe­ga­tron’s Shang­hai plant “passed away in a short pe­riod of time”, Bloomberg re­ported on Thurs­day.

Bloomberg cited a state­ment from the la­bor rights group as say­ing that among the dead was a 15-year-old worker who died of pneu­mo­nia on Oct 9 at a Shang­hai hos­pi­tal.

The Tai­wan com­pany said in a state­ment that “Pe­ga­tron has strict mea­sures in place to ver­ify work­ers’ ages be­fore and af­ter they are hired, and we work with health and safety ex­perts to pro­vide a safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for each and ev­ery worker”.

The young worker who died in Oc­to­ber used his 21-yearold cousin’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to ap­ply for the job, Pe­ga­tron said, adding that the fac­tory did not know he was un­der­age.

This is not the first time Pe­ga­tron has been tar­geted by China La­bor Watch.

In July, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said it found at least 86 vi­o­la­tions at the Pe­ga­tron fac­to­ries in Shang­hai and the neigh­bor­ing city of Suzhou.

The vi­o­la­tions in­cluded de­mand­ing em­ploy­ees work 66-69 hours a week, be­yond the legally re­quired 49-hour max­i­mum, without over­time be­ing paid.

Pe­ga­tron was also ac­cused of us­ing un­der­age work­ers as in­terns who worked the same long hours at the fac­to­ries.

How­ever, Feng Xil­iang, a la­bor rights ex­pert at Cap­i­tal Univer­sity of Eco­nom­ics and Busi­ness, told China Daily that many work­ers at elec­tron­ics com­pa­nies are will­ing to work over­time be­cause they want to earn more money.

“Reg­u­lar wages at most plants that man­u­fac­ture elec­tron­ics prod­ucts are usu­ally low so those young work­ers must work longer to earn more,” Feng said, adding that the younger gen­er­a­tion of mi­grant work­ers has stronger aware­ness of its rights and is call­ing for a more pow­er­ful la­bor union to pro­tect its in­ter­ests.

“Con­se­quently, Ap­ple and its sup­pli­ers have been im­prov­ing their per­for­mance in the la­bor rights field be­cause they don’t want to project a neg­a­tive im­age to con­sumers.”

Wang Kan, a re­searcher in la­bor rights at the China In­sti­tute of In­dus­trial Re­la­tions in Bei­jing, added that work­ing con­di­tions at Ap­ple’s con­trac­tors are much bet­ter than those at many other elec­tron­ics fac­to­ries.

“Com­pared to the time when Steve Jobs man­aged the com­pany, Ap­ply now is pay­ing more at­ten­tion to its im­age in con­sumers’ eyes when it comes to la­bor rights,” Wang said. “I am not say­ing it is per­fect, but it is fair to say that the com­pany has im­proved sub­stan­tially in this re­gard.”

Wang said most un­der­age young peo­ple work­ing at man­u­fac­tur­ing plants are stu­dents sent by vo­ca­tional schools as in­terns, and are prone to work­ing with haz­ards due to loop­holes in laws.

“Ed­u­ca­tion laws and reg­u­la­tions do not cover their in­tern­ships at fac­to­ries, while la­bor codes do not cat­e­go­rize them as em­ploy­ees,” Wang said.

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