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Some Apple factories still 'sweatshops,' says Chinese watchdog group

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Apple Store SoHo STOCK
Apple Store SoHo STOCK

Last month Apple cut ties with one of its Chinese suppliers when an internal audit revealed the supplier was utilizing underage labor — but according to a Chinese consumer watchdog group, some other suppliers still have work to do. As reported by CNET, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) released a report yesterday that accuses Foxlink, Pegatron, and Wintek of exploitative working conditions following inspections last year.

Calling the suppliers "sweatshops," the report cites inhumane labor practices — including preventing bathroom breaks and proper rest. 14-hour workdays and unpaid overtime are not uncommon, the report states, with some workers only able to take off between one and two days over a three-month period. The suppliers are also accused of employing students as workers under the guise of internships.

"This code was developed in response to maintaining Apple's clean brand image."

Working conditions in Chinese factories have come under increasing scrutiny in the past few years, with the majority of consumer electronics built in such facilities (Foxlink is noted as a manufacturer of cables for Microsoft's Xbox, and HP recently needed to crack down on the use of student workers in its factories). Apple has tried to address the issue with its Apple Supplier Responsibility reports, but SACOM sees the company's published supplier code of conduct as insufficient. "While this code was developed in response to maintaining Apple's clean brand image," SACOM's report says, "it is not being upheld by Apple and its suppliers."

In response to the latest accusations, an Apple representative told the South China Morning Post that "We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made."