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Production facility making Apple's iPad mini criticised by labour group

For once, Apple supplier Foxconn isn't the target of a scathing labour report from Hong Kong-based Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM). Instead, the labour rights group this week cast its gaze on Pegatron subsidiary Ri-Teng Computer Accessory, assembler of the new iPad mini.

SACOM conducted off-site interviews with workers at Ri-Teng's Shanghai factory earlier this month, the labour group said. The facility, where Apple's newly unveiled 7.9in tablets are being assembled, was the site of an explosion in its polishing division last December which reportedly injured 61 workers.

Ri-Teng's "poor record in workplace safety" is "rooted in the purchasing practice of Apple and in its ineffective monitoring system," SACOM alleged.

SACOM said workers worker interviews pointed to an ongoing hazardous working environment at the Shanghai factory, with poor ventilation, dust-filled shops, and poor protection from chemicals used by machine operators as contributing to risks posed to Ri-Teng workers' health.

The labour group was adamant that Apple's alleged "negligence in enforcing labor rights standards" was "at the root" of the allegedly unsafe work environment at Ri-Teng's factory and other unfair labour practices allegedly perpetrated by the contract manufacturer.

"To divert the public criticism about Apple's unethical labor practices, the company joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) in January 2012. Apparently, Apple seeks to distance itself from the problems at its supplier factories. Nevertheless, Apple is not the victim of the scandals at its supplier factories. It is the root problem," SACOM said in a statement.

Apple "must raise the unit price and prolong the delivery time [of its products], so workers do not need to have excessive overtime to earn a living," the labour group continued, also urging the company to press its China-based suppliers to allow workers to form unions.

Aside from workplace safety deficiencies, SACOM alleged that Ri-Teng forces employees to work excessive and unpaid overtime schedules, abuses sub-contractors, "cheats" on its mandated contribution to workers' pension and health insurance funds, and pushes student interns into front-line manufacturing work instead of training them in the areas they expected when they secured positions with the contract manufacturer.

Apple unveiled the iPad mini in San Jose, California on 23 October. The new device will start at £269 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi-only version, with pre-orders starting 26 October and the first iPad minis due to arrive in buyers' hands by 2 November.