BBC exposes shocking conditions in Apple’s Chinese factories

A BBC Panorama investigation has uncovered the appalling conditions experienced by workers in some of Apple’s Chinese factories.

Undercover filming showed that the US firm breached its standards on workers’ hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers in its Pegatron factories.

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Workers were seen falling asleep during their 12-hour shifts, while one of the BBC reporters had to work 18 days in a row, despite requests for time off.

Another reporter, who was forced to work a 16-hour shift, said that the workload left him exhausted.

"Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn't want to move,” he said. "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."

Apple refused to be interviewed for the programme, but did indicate that it disagreed with many of its conclusions. It also emphasised that it pursues “continuous and significant improvement” to its worker conditions, but would investigate some of the programme's allegations. It also claims that staff at its Pegatron factory average 55 hours of work a week.

The treatment of Apple’s Chinese workers has been scrutinised previously, particularly after 14 employees committed suicide at its Foxconn supplier factory in 2010. Following the deaths, Apple drew up a set of standards on employee treatment.

However, the BBC found that the new regulations were regularly breached as a result of enforced overtime, overcrowded dormitories and even the use of illegally sourced materials.

The investigation found small-scale mines being dug by children as young as 12, possibly being used to supply tin to Apple’s factories.

The Cupertino-based firm has responded by stating that it would be easy for to avoid all Indonesian tin and escape any potential criticism, but that would not improve conditions for the local people.

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"That would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation,” it said. “We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground."