Technology

iPhone Workers Exposed To Dangerous Hazards In China

A new report states that the majority of workers making iPhones had been taken to a hospital last year due to dangerous leaks. The location in question is the Catcher Technology Factory which is in China. Up to 90 iPhone workers were hospitalized due to hazardous leaks that included sulfur and phosphorous.

iPhone Workers
By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (glue worksUploaded by Zolo) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Watchdog Incident Report

China Labor Watch (CLW) published a report that was focused on the treatment of workers who are making products mainly iPhone workers for Apple. The factories they studied are in Suqian, Jiangsu province in China. Among the findings in the report are the fact that many of the iPhone workers are putting in overly long, difficult shifts. That is all on top of being exposed to hazardous chemicals. They found that iPhone workers putting in overtime was doing so at twice as much time as is allowed by Chinese law. They are also paid a pittance per hour, less than $2 per hour. Aside from that, the plants where the iPhone workers make the products habitually dump contaminated water into public drains.

The majority of products made at the Catcher facilities are iPhone 8 frames, keyboard cases for Macbooks, and some products for other computer makers.

Apple Fires Back

Apple has come out to say that the claims in the report are inaccurate. They have, in the past, stated that they would improve the situation of iPhone workers at the plants. That was back in 2014, and after three years it seems they have not done all that they could. The CLW went on to claim that Apple is only picking and choosing which Chinese law they wish to uphold. Laws particularly pertaining to labor and protection of the environment seem to be low on their list of worries. CLW also lays blame at the feet of Catcher who employs the iPhone workers and is directly responsible for work environment and schedule.

Report Proof

The China Labor Watch report showed payslips with evidence of over seventy hours of overtime in a month, or more than 15 hours per week. China mandates no more than 36 hours of overtime monthly. The country also allows companies to request exemptions and Apple has stated that all of Catcher’s auditing and papers are in order to allow this.

Another claim of the report is that workers are being shorted wages. The iPhone workers are receiving a base wage of 1,950 Chinese Yuan per month ($302+) for regular 40 hour work weeks. However, the workers are then required to put in 10 hour shifts, six days per week. Those extra hours weren’t classified as overtime so the workers are losing 500 Yuan ($77+) or more per month.

Undercover Investigator Reports

CLW based the report on an undercover investigator that had been employed at the factory. The investigator talks if iPhone workers standing for hours on end doing unending assembly and disassembly of iPhone 8 metal frames. The eye witness reports also talk of lack of safety gear and metal chips and cutting oil splashing into eyes. The investigator was affected to the point of reduced vision, eye pain, and constant bloodshot eyes, even a month after leaving. Additionally, there are no fire exits in the dormitories and access to the factory itself was through a single narrow door.

Apple Denies All Claims

Apple claims that they sent a team of employees to the factories as soon as they saw the report. They also say that Catcher was audited by them multiple times last year with a score of 96 (of 100) on the last one. They state they interviewed over 150 employees and found zero evidence of Catch violating Apple’s standards. So the question then is, what are Apple’s standards to Catcher? They also state that they “remain dedicated to doing all we can to protect the workers in our supply chain and make a positive impact on the environment.” Do you think the iPhone is making a positive impact on the environment? What about Apple itself?