Apple, Dell and a handful of other technology companies have been warned that a Chinese factory supplying parts has been violating safety laws and worker rights.
China Labor Watch and Green America collaborated on a report that is alleging workers were exposed to toxic chemicals, not given enough training and forced to pay for drinking water in living quarters.
The facility in question is in the eastern city of Suqian and run by Catcher Technology, a Taiwanese firm that mass-produces light metal casings for smartphones, tablets, laptops and MP3 players.
The charities voiced concerns about the factory back in 2013 before sending an undercover investigator to the factory this year to see if things had improved and instead found that the situation had gotten worse.
On both visits the inspectors found that no protective clothing was worn when handling toxic chemicals; training only lasted 20 minutes; flammable aluminium-magnesium alloy dust and scraps was described as dense in some workshops; staff work up to 100 hours overtime a month; and dormitories are eight to a room plus showering and drinking water has to be paid for.
In the later visit it was reported that workers were filling in documents to say they’d been trained when none had taken place; hazardous waste was not separated and industrial waste poured into a nearby river; overtime is mandatory and some isn’t paid; fire exits and windows are locked shut; punitive wage deductions are in place; there’s no functional union and the company complaint line isn’t confidential; and it refuses to hire anyone with tattoos.
Apple has already responded to the report and explained that it makes quarterly fire inspections at Catcher with the most recent one taking place last week and seeing “same-day repairs of broken and expired fire extinguishers, unblocked corridors and fire exits, and added missing emergency exit signs”. The firm has, however, sent a team of investigators to the plant to probe the claims further.
Dell, on the other hand, is “working with Catcher to address the issue” with the company recognising that it is its "responsibility to work with suppliers promoting sustainable environmental practices, the health and safety of people, and fundamental human rights and dignity".
Catcher, meanwhile stated that it is " deeply concerned about the claims made by China Labor Watch, and we take the report very seriously” and “committed to following Apple's supplier code of conduct and will investigate thoroughly.”