Apple product lovers may be rethinking their brand loyalty after the Dec. 17 airing of a BBC documentary on working conditions at their manufacturing operations in China and beyond. Apple denied the accusations and replied that it is “deeply offended” by the report.
“For its ‘Panorama’ documentary series, the BBC says it ‘secretly filmed from inside the high-security Chinese factories where Apple’s products are made,’ ” reported MarketWatch. Three BBC reporters infiltrated iPhone 6 factories run by Pegatron and Foxconn.
“The team … found Apple's promises to protect workers were routinely broken, reported BBC News. “It found standards on workers’ hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached.”
Apple was supposed to have new standards in place in 2010 after 14 Chinese workers killed themselves at Apple’s largest supplier, Foxconn, wrote BBC News. The cause of the mass suicide was attributed to poor working conditions and employee mistreatment.
Jeff Williams, the senior vice president of Apple operations, said in an email to U.K. Apple employees that the conclusions of the BBC investigation "could not be further from the truth," reported NPR.
"We know of no other company doing as much as Apple does to ensure fair and safe working conditions, to discover and investigate problems, to fix and follow through when issues arise, and to provide transparency into the operations of our suppliers," Williams wrote.
But the BBC report says that Apple has changed its policies on paper but not in practice.
"One undercover reporter — making parts for Apple computers — had to work 18 days without a day off,” reported BBC News.
“Even if I was hungry I wouldn't want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress,” one of the undercover reporters said, explaining how he or she felt returning to the dorms after the end of sometimes 16-hour shifts.
Reporters found exhausted employees falling asleep on production lines after putting in shifts up to 18 hours, wrote Business Insider.
The BBC also discovered that employee mistreatment continued further down the supply chain to the mud pits of Bangka, Indonesia.
“The program … (looked) into the source of tin used in Apple’s devices. It says it found evidence that tin from illegal digs in Indonesia is finding its way into iPhone components — and that children are putting their lives at risk to work in those open-cast mines,” wrote MarketWatch.
There is a danger of mudslides in the mines. “The mining process calls for jets of water to be shot at a pit’s walls to uncover the ore, bringing the danger of a collapse. Families make up some teams, so children can be digging in the pit with this risk in mind. ‘My feelings? I’m worried. Worried about landslides,’ a 14-year-old whose name is given as Waheed tells a (BBC) reporter,” continued MarketWatch.
Apple called the allegations in the BBC report untrue.
“Jeff Williams said both himself and the chief executive were ‘deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way,’ ” reported The Guardian.
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