updated 12:04 pm EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
Violations include excessive overtime, lack of protective gear
Another Apple supplier, Catcher Technology, is being accused of violating labor and safety standards, according to The New York Times. The paper says that two groups -- Green America, an environmental non-profit, and China Labor Watch -- have found that workers at a Catcher-owned factory in Suqian, China are being forced to work excessive overtime and in unsafe conditions. Although Catcher has contracts with other electronics firms, Apple is a major client, for whom it produces metal iPad and MacBook shells.
Apple states that a May audit of the Suqian plant "found some concrete areas for improvement in Catcher's operations, and we worked with Catcher to develop a corrective action plan." A follow-up was scheduled for October, but the company says it has already sent a team out in response to the new charges.
China Labor Watch's information stems from an undercover investigation in August, which found that fire exits were locked at the same time as flammable aluminum-magnesium alloy dust and shavings were contaminating the air and floors of some workshops. Workers, meanwhile, were forced to work up to 100 hours of overtime per month, while not receiving social insurance payments mandated by Chinese law. The same people were made to sign forms saying they'd completed safety training, even though they hadn't.
CLW notes that it privately brought concerns about the Suqian plant to Apple in April 2013, following an earlier undercover probe. Apple's response was to run its own inspection, after which it said that Catcher would make changes. The audit is said to have shown that the facility's aluminum-polishing systems violated international safety standards; Apple spokesman Chris Gaither says that the latest visit has corrected some problems, like blocked corridors and fire exits.
Regarding labor abuses, Gaither claims that Catcher averaged 95 percent compliance with Apple supplier standards by the end of August. Apple's policies limit workers to 60 hours of work per week.
Catcher has issued a brief statement of its own. "We are deeply concerned about the claims made by China Labor Watch, and we take the report very seriously," it says. "We are committed to following Apple's supplier code of conduct, and will investigate thoroughly."