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Apple comes under fire for failing to protect workers

Undercover journalists in Chinese iPhone factories tell grim tales of working conditions

Apple’s latest pledge dates back to 2010, when 14 workers killed themselves in another iPhone manufacturer’s factory.
Apple’s latest pledge dates back to 2010, when 14 workers killed themselves in another iPhone manufacturer’s factory.

Apple Inc has been accused of failing to live up to its pledge to protect Chinese factory workers making its iPhone handsets.

A BBC video report concentrating on undercover workers at Taiwan-based Pegatron's Chinese factories, where it also makes iPads, said they found widespread examples that Apple's guidelines on employee treatment were not being adhered to

Apple's latest pledge dates back to 2010, when 14 workers killed themselves in another iPhone manufacturer's factory.

The BBC's undercover reporters got jobs through agencies and "within minutes rules were broken", according to the report. ID cards, required by law to be carried at all times, were confiscated.

"They said they needed to see my ID," said one witness, whose face was obscured to protect his identity. "When they got it they didn't return it to me. I demanded that they return it. I felt helpless."

Workers have to pass a health and safety exam, but it is conducted in an auditorium where answers are chanted out by candidates, so everyone passes. Employees are given a choice of whether they want to work nights or remain standing during shifts, but they are coached on their responses.

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"Don't tick the options which indicate that you are not willing. Tick the two which say you are," one factory representative was recorded as saying.

Apple responded by saying it has seen no evidence of coaching and that it had done more than any company to prevent the confiscation of ID cards.

According to the BBC report, shifts have overtime "built in" and so employees regularly work longer than 60 hours a week, which is beyond Apple's guidelines. Workers commonly sleep on breaks and fall asleep during shifts. One iPhone 6 testing area filmed by an undercover reporter, showed almost no one awake.

"If you fall asleep and you lean against machines that are connected with electricity and there is a live wire, you will be gone," one undercover reporter filmed a supervisor telling subordinates.

Apple responded by saying it would examine sleeping during production but "napping on breaks is not unusual". It added: "No other company is doing as much to ensure fair and safe working conditions."

Pegatron said it was "carefully investigating the BBC's claims" and "will take all necessary actions".

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