After an avalanche of media attention earlier this year, Apple and its largest contractor, Foxconn, have made some improvements to worker conditions at factories, according to critics.
But Foxconn still has a long way to go, says the Chinese advocacy group, China Labor Watch. And the problems at Foxconn pale in comparison to those at other Apple suppliers in China, the group charges in a new report, "Beyond Foxconn: Deplorable Working Conditions Characterize Apple’s Entire Supply Chain."
China Labor Watch based the studies on interviews with workers not only at Foxconn, but at nine other Apple suppliers. Despite sometimes being apprehended and expelled by police (as the group claims), the researchers were still able to interview or give surveys to hundreds of workers.
Using Temp Employees to Skirt Labor Laws
The biggest culprit named is "labor dispatching" — essentially hiring temp workers who put in more hours for lower pay and often with fewer legal protections.
For example, factories that hire these temp workers don't pay severance for layoffs, they don't limit overtime (which goes as high as 150 hours per month) and they contribute less or nothing at all to worker's social insurance programs.
This happens in the shadows, because Apple doesn't address dispatched workers in its Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports. "If Apple were to take the problem into account, the number of supplier factories that meet Apple’s standards would fall considerably," the China Labor Watch report said. [ Is Apple Going Far Enough? ]
Problems worse than expected
Foxconn, which gets the most media attention (especially after a massive investigation and a series of New York Times articles earlier this year), no longer uses dispatched workers at all, but they make up half the workers at Riteng, another supplier with three factories.
In fact, according to the report, conditions at Riteng are especially grim, with lower pay, longer hours and far worse health and safety conditions, according to surveys by 100 employees.
For example, half of the Riteng employees rated the factory safety and health conditions as bad," versus just 2 percent at Foxconn. Workers said that the factory doesn't provide adequate facemasks for people working in areas with metal dust in the air, for example. And 67 percent of those at Rieteng rated the food as "unsanitary," versus a still-troubling 39 percent at Foxconn factories.