iPhone manufacturing facility deaths spark investigation

December 11: Today in Apple history: Deaths at Pegatron iPhone factory spark investigation December 11, 2013: A Chinese language labor rights group calls on Apple to research the deaths of a number of staff at a Shanghai manufacturing facility run by iPhone producer Pegatron.

Most controversially, one of many lifeless staff is simply 15 years outdated. The underage employee reportedly succumbed to pneumonia after working extraordinarily lengthy hours on the iPhone 5c manufacturing line.

Working circumstances in iPhone factories

Poor working circumstances inside Chinese language factories got here to mild after Apple began its meteoric rise within the 2000s. Apple is way from the one tech firm to have its merchandise made in China. Nevertheless, Cupertino’s excessive visibility, and propensity for casting itself as a “pressure for good” in tech, means critics usually single out the corporate on this space.

A lot of the time, the producer named alongside Apple is provider Foxconn. After a variety of staff died at Foxconn factories, Apple confronted heavy criticism within the media. Steve Jobs made issues worse with feedback that some construed as uncaring, corresponding to telling interviewers that the factories have been really “fairly good.”

The Pegatron story in 2013 confirmed that the issue prolonged past Foxconn. The 15-year-old employee who died, Shi Zhaokun, secured a job at a Pegatron manufacturing facility utilizing a pretend ID. (The doc said his age as 20.) In his first month on the firm, he reportedly broke extra time legal guidelines by working upward of 280 hours. He clocked 79 hours in his first week alone.

Apple later revealed that it despatched a medical workforce to the Pegatron facility. The specialists decided that working circumstances didn’t result in Shi’s dying.

“Final month we despatched unbiased medical specialists from the U.S. and China to conduct an investigation of the manufacturing facility,” Apple mentioned in a press release. “Whereas they’ve discovered no proof of any hyperlink to working circumstances there, we notice that’s of little consolation to the households who’ve misplaced their family members. Apple has a long-standing dedication to offering a protected and wholesome office for each employee in our provide chain, and we’ve a workforce working with Pegatron at their facility to make sure that circumstances meet our excessive requirements.”

Ongoing challenges for Apple in China

Within the aftermath of the Pegatron accusations, the corporate started using facial recognition know-how to display screen out underage staff. It additionally made positive that candidates for manufacturing line jobs had their government-issued IDs checked for authenticity. Staff’ faces received matched to their ID photographs utilizing AI-powered software program.

Apple, in the meantime, ramped up efforts to make its provide chain extra humane. As detailed in studies on employee circumstances, Apple achieved round 95% compliance with imposing a most 60-hour work week for folks in its provide chain. The corporate additionally took different steps to cut back the hiring of underage staff.

In 2016, Apple CEO Tim Prepare dinner reportedly pledged to take a position $275 billion in China to spice up the nation’s financial system and “technological prowess.”

As a part of the key deal, which got here to mild in 2021, Apple helps “coaching of high-quality Chinese language skills.” The corporate additionally reportedly promised to spice up analysis and improvement amenities, renewable power tasks, “superior manufacturing applied sciences” and extra.

Apple works to reduce its reliance on China

On the identical time, Apple added factories in India, Vietnam and different international locations to reduce its reliance on China’s workforce. And Cupertino’s efforts to transfer manufacturing out of China appear to be accelerating.

Nonetheless, occasional human rights points nonetheless bubble up all through Apple’s huge worldwide provide chain. Violent protests erupted in November at “iPhone Metropolis” — a sprawling Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou, China — over COVID-19 lockdowns and pay disputes.

It’s an enormous problem, and one which Apple and its suppliers must proceed to handle.

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