updated 09:50 am EST, Wed December 11, 2013
Worker found to be underage, overworked
Chinese supplier Pegatron is facing renewed criticism following a spate of employee deaths associated with its iPhone 5c production factory. In a particularly disturbing example, 15-year-old Shi Zhaokun succumbed to pneumonia after working nearly 280 hours in his first month at the plant, in apparent violation of local labor regulations and Apple's supplier code of conduct, according to a New York Times report.
Using a falsified identification card, Shi Zhaokun appears to have circumvented China's minimum hiring age. The government also prohibits companies from forcing staff to work more than 60 hours a week, however the teenager is said to have worked between 75 and 79 hours in each of his first three weeks.
Worker advocacy group China Labor Watch suggests Pegatron has not provided satisfactory explanations for five other deaths of young workers within the past few months. The organization is said to have received reports of harsh working conditions and excessive hours at the plant.
Pegatron has acknowledged several worker deaths, however it argues that Shi Zhaokun's health problems were unrelated to his work at the iPhone 5c factory. The supplier also claims that the worker logs found by his parents may not include any breaks taken during the work days.
"Considering the sudden deaths of five people and the similar reason of the deaths, we believe there should be some relations between the tragedy and the working conditions in the factory," China Labor Watch representative Li Qiang says.
Following earlier reports of poor working conditions at its Chinee suppliers, Apple has pushed for higher wages, safer working environments and other improvements. The company has stepped up audits to monitor compliance with its code of conduct, however it remains unclear if the alleged problems at Pegatron have been spotted during the checks.