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Report on Labor Violations at Chinese Apple Supplier Mentions Plastic iPhone

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Report on Labor Violations at Chinese Apple Supplier Mentions Plastic iPhone

Watchdog report blames worker abuses on Apple’s rush to produce a cheaper handset.

A human-rights watchdog group may have inadvertently confirmed one of the biggest Apple rumors of the year. China Labor Watch, a nonprofit based in New York, released a 62-page report detailing safety violations, poor living conditions, forced overtime, and the withholding of pay – but they also came across workers who were involved in the production of a low-cost iPhone.

The report, titled Apple’s unkept promises: Cheap iPhones come at high costs to Chinese workers, centered on factories operated by Pegatron, a Taiwan-owned suppler with factories in Shanghai. Investigators were sent to three Pegatron factories, conducting nearly 200 interviews with staff.

Pegatron has expanded its workforce as Apple shifts some production away from its most infamous suppler, Foxconn. The Wall Street Journal reported that one-third of the world’s iPhones and iPads are assembled at Pegatron.

One section of the China Labor Watch report, “A day in Pegatron,” is written in the style of a diary entry by one of the factory’s staff. The unnamed assembly-line worker describes living in a cramped dormitory with between 10 and 12 people per room, unpaid morning meetings, and military-style discipline from superiors. The worker goes on to explain that talking during work results in docked pay and details how workers who finish their quota before the end of their shift are forced to remain on-site and read the company’s Standard Operating Procedures handbook.

The worker then goes on to explain their specific role on the Pegatron assembly-line (page 28, bold text has been highlighted by The Diplomat):

“Today’s work is to paste protective film on the iPhone’s plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines. This iPhone model with a plastic cover will soon be released on the market by Apple. The task is pretty easy, and I was able to work independently after a five-minute instruction from a veteran employee. It took around a minute to paste protective film on one rear cover. The new cell phone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important. This makes our job more slow-paced than in departments that have begun mass production schedules.”

A “Company Profile” of Pegatron is also included in the report. It states the following (page 11, bold text again by The Diplomat): “Pegatron primarily assembles cell phones and tablet PCs for Apple. Its assembled products include iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and low-priced plastic iPhones.”

Rumors of a plastic iPhone have been circulating online for months, but the China Labor Watch report may have finally confirmed what so many have suspected. But have the alleged worker abuses already sullied the budget iPhone before it even becomes official?

A follow-up statement from Apple, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, said that the tech giant is “committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain.” Apple also said that it has “conducted 15 comprehensive audits at Pegatron facilities since 2007, including surprise audits within the past 18 months.”

Do reports of poor working conditions influence your purchases? Are you interested in a less expensive iPhone? Sound off in the comments section below.