Apple's upcoming flagship handsets are to be unveiled tomorrow in Cupertino. However, only a day before the event, the tech giant has become embroiled in a controversy regarding labor laws. New York City-based watchdog, China Labor Watch (CLW), reported on Sunday that over half of the workforce employed in its iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, China, in August were temporary (or "dispatch") workers.
The factory in question is operated by Apple's manufacturing partner Foxconn, and is alleged to have been in strict violation of Chinese labor law. According to the law, temporary hires are not allowed to exceed 10% of the total workforce. CLW also claimed that Foxconn's hired student workers and dispatch workers were forced to work overtime hours and not given the bonuses that they were promised.
Moreover, those employees who did not meet referral quotas were also noted to pay the price through the taking away of their overtime hours. And finally, the factory management reportedly did not provide adequate personal protection equipment, and neither did it officially take note of work-related injuries.
Now, Apple has issued a statement to CNBC, denying the claims made by CLW, stating that "most of the allegations are false". However, the Cupertino firm did admit that the percentage of its dispatch workers exceeded its standards, and it is working with Foxconn to address the issue.
The company's full statement is as follows:
"We believe everyone in our supply chain should be treated with dignity and respect. To make sure our high standards are being adhered to, we have robust management systems in place beginning with training on workplace rights, on-site worker interviews, anonymous grievance channels and ongoing audits.
When we find issues, we work with our suppliers to take immediate corrective action.We looked into the claims by China Labor Watch and most of the allegations are false.
We have confirmed all workers are being compensated appropriately, including any overtime wages and bonuses, all overtime work was voluntary and there was no evidence of forced labor. We did find during our investigation that the percentage of dispatch workers exceeded our standards and we are working closely with Foxconn to resolve this issue."
This isn't the first - or even the second - time Apple and Foxconn have been accused of violating labor laws. Back in 2017, it was found that 3,000 students at the Zhengzhou plant were being made to work 11 hours a day, despite the Chinese labor law prohibiting more than 40 hours a week. This was quickly addressed by the firm after the emergence of the report.
In its latest annual supplier responsibility report, Apple said that it conducted more than 44,000 interviews last year to ensure workers had received proper training and knew where they could voice concerns regarding any work-related problems.