Production of Low-cost iPhone Exposed by China Labor Watch

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In a very ironic fashion, the first concrete evidence of the iPhone’s alleged upcoming cheap variant, rumored to be called the iPhone 5C, has been revealed through a recent probe by China Labor Watch, a labor rights advocate that is investigating Apple’s production line in China.

In a detailed documentation produced by the group, China Labor watched described the long working hours of workers at three manufacturing and assembling facilities of Pegatron, which in total claims over 80 labor rights violations including underage labor, insufficient wages and poor working conditions. Pegatron, if you are not aware, is one of Apple’s manufacturing partners. Once a subsidiary of Asus, the world’s fifth largest computer manufacturer, Pegatron is a Taiwanese firm that has factory operations in China.

Amidst the report is described, rather unintentionally, the company’s new phone in the works. Still in the prototype stage, the new cheap iPhone is said to use a plastic shell for price considerations. Quoting an unnamed worker, the report said:

“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 cellphone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important.”

China Labor Watch sent investigators to Pegatron between March and July of this year. Over 200 workers were interviewed in the three sites of the company: Shanghai, Riteng and Suzhou. Overall, 70,000 employees are currently employed in those factories.

In response to these inquiries, Pegatron has said it will “investigate the matter and take immediate action to correct any violations of Chinese labor laws and its own code of conduct”. Apple, on the other hand, responded saying it had carried out a number of audits at Pegatron since 2007, and has looked at the working conditions of more than 130,000 Pegatron employees. In a statement, Apple said:

“Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain. We lead the industry with far-reaching and specialized audits, the most transparent reporting and educational programs that enrich the lives of workers who make our products. Additionally, we have closely tracked working hours at all of these facilities. Our most recent survey in June found that Pegatron employees making Apple products worked 46 hours per week on average. Excessive overtime is not in anyone’s best interest, and we work closely with our suppliers to prevent it.”

Given these recent developments from Cupertino, at least we are somehow assured of two things: (1) a cheaper iPhone is slowly coming to reality, if we are to believe advocate China Labor Watch, and (2) working conditions in China and other manufacturing facilities in the world should definitely be improved. A spanking new iPhone, whether cheap or high-end, should not come at the expense of others.

Source: The Register

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