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Apple supplier accused of China labour abuses

ABC Radio Australia - July 30, 2013

A labour rights group says factories making Apple products in China have been forcing employees to work unpaid overtime in poor working and living conditions.

New York-based China Labor Watch says three plants run by the Pegatron Group have violated not only Chinese labour laws but also the standards set by Apple.

Apple says it will investigate the claims which include exploitation of minors, poor safety conditions and arbitrary fines for perceived minor lapses of behaviour.

Allegations of labour violations by Apples' Chinese suppliers are not new. In 2010 after more than a dozen workers at Foxconn committed suicide, Apple introduced new regulations including no underage labour, overtime to be voluntary and a maximum 60-hour work week.

The US technology giant has also brought in the Fair Labor Association to independently assess its facilities in China.

But China Labour Bulletin's spokesman Geoffrey Crothall says the monitoring has been ineffective. "They're just moving production to another that factory which has the same problems that Foxconn had," he told Asia Pacific.

Professor Anita Chan, from the China Research Centre at the University of Technology Sydney, agrees monitoring of conditions in Chinese factories is just window dressing. "These multinational companies really have been squeezing these suppliers," she said.

"If you look at their profit margins: for example, Apple's profits have been increasing every year in the past 10 years. "But if you look at Foxconn's it's been decreasing. Of course it's still making some money, but the more it produces, the less money it makes and who can they squeeze but the workers."

Pegatron, which assembles iPads and iPhones in Shanghai and Suzhou, said in a statement that it would investigate the matter and take immediate action to correct any violations of labour laws and its own code of conduct.

It employs more than 70,000 Chinese workers after it stepped up production of Apple's products as part of the tech giant's plans to diversify its contract manufacturing partners.

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