Skip to main content

US-owned iPhone factory accused of labor abuses in China

US-owned iPhone factory accused of labor abuses in China


China Labor Watch accuses Jabil Circuit of 'ethical and legal labor violations' in manufacturing Apple's rumored iPhone 5C

Share this story

iphone close up
iphone close up

China Labor Watch (CLW) today released another excoriating report on working conditions at an Apple supplier in China, taking aim at a US-owned company that is reportedly manufacturing the rumored "low-cost" iPhone. CLW's report, published Thursday, cites several "ethical and legal labor violations" at a factory owned by Jabil Circuit, a relatively little-known company based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

According to the New York-based nonprofit, employees at Jabil's factory in Wuxi, China are regularly forced to work excessively long hours without overtime pay, including more than 11 hours of standing work every day. They also face discriminatory hiring practices and are given inadequate training, CLW claims.

Today's report comes more than a month after CLW made similarly damning accusations against Taiwan-based Pegatron Group, a supplier that is also believed to be involved with the production of Apple's lower-priced smartphone (widely referred to as the "iPhone 5C"). Apple has yet to confirm plans to release a budget iPhone, though the device is expected to be announced at an event on September 10th.

"Millions of dollars in unpaid overtime"

Apple has come under intense criticism from worker rights advocates in recent years, most notably for alleged violations at Foxconn plants in China. The Cupertino, California-based company claims to have cracked down on its various suppliers, enforcing a self-mandated 60-hour work week and conducting regular audits of overseas factories. In March, Apple said that 99% of its suppliers were in compliance with its weekly limits, and independent reports have shown signs of improving conditions.

But CLW says Jabil continues to violate Apple's code of conduct at its Wuxi factory; according to its investigation, it is common for employees there to work 110 hours of overtime each month — a violation of Chinese labor laws, as well. Workers are forced to work 11 hours of unpaid overtime every month, and according to CLW, do not receive any breaks during their 12-hour shifts, aside from 30-minute meal breaks. All told, the factory "is effectively stealing" an estimated $8.3 million per year in unpaid overtime wages.

CLW also accuses Jabil of discriminatory hiring practices, claiming that the factory hires only tattoo-free people between the ages of 18 and 35, and that it subjects female applicants pregnancy tests. The supplier allegedly forces new hirees to hastily sign contracts that free Jabil of all liability, and gives them only "perfunctory" two-hour training sessions, despite the dangerous chemicals and hazards that workers regularly face on the job.

"It seems that wherever Apple products are made, labor rights are infringed upon."

The accusations are similar to those levied against Apple's suppliers in the past, though unlike Foxconn and Pegatron, Jabil is a US-owned company. "It seems that wherever Apple products are made, labor rights are infringed upon," reads the opening line of CLW's report, "even if the supplier factory is owned by a US-based company."

CLW goes on to argue that the US government shares responsibility for the abuses committed at Jabil's facility, and that it should do more to regulate its practices, as stipulated under international agreements. "When, for instance, Jabil Circuit does not pay its Chinese production workers for overtime, the US has the obligation to stop it," the report continues. "Rather, the US currently profits through the capital gains tax on earnings Jabil acquires through wage theft of its workers in Wuxi."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

Update: Apple tells All Things D that it has been monitoring working conditions at Jabil and other suppliers for years, but that it is in the process of investigating the findings of the China Labor Watch report. "Apple has conducted 14 comprehensive audits at Jabil facilities since 2008, including three audits of Jabil Wuxi in the past 36 months," the company said in a statement. "We take any concerns about our suppliers very seriously, and our team of experts is on-site at Jabil Wuxi to look into the new claims about conditions there."

Jabil also issued a statement to the website, saying that it is troubled by claims that its workers are working excessively and, in some cases, without pay. "An audit team is en route to Wuxi to thoroughly investigate these claims," Jabil said. "While we are aware of the desire of many employees to work overtime, our goal is to regulate overtime."