Apple’s poor working conditions exposed by BBC Panorama
Unfavourable working conditions in Chinese factories supplying Apple products have once again been exposed in a BBC Panorama investigation aired yesterday.
The undercover team secretly filmed the abysmal work environment on the iPhone 6 production line at the Pegatron factories near Shanghai. Exhausted workers were seen falling asleep and one of them reported working 18 consecutive days making parts for the factory, despite repeated requests for time off.
Another reporter revealed working incredibly long shifts lasting 16 hours. He commented: “I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress.”
Although overtime work at the factories is supposed to be voluntary, none of the workers reported having been given a choice.
The documentary also filmed Apple’s supply chain on the Indonesian island of Bangka, exposing the illegal sourcing of minerals entering the product line. It tracked down a gang of adults and children who collect deposits of tin ore working in extremely dangerous conditions, using their bare hands to dig the deposits from the ground. The ore was later sold to a smelter on Apple’s list of suppliers.
The poor working conditions at Apple’s factories first came under fire in 2010, after a number of employees killed themselves at Foxconn, one of the brand’s biggest suppliers. Subsequent intense media scrutiny of the treatment of workers producing parts for one of the most recognisable brands in the world forced a review, and Apple implemented a strict code of conduct for suppliers like Foxconn and Pegatron to follow.
Despite their efforts to implement better standards, it seems there are still major failures in ensuring a healthy work environment. Following the Panorama investigation, for which Apple declined to be interviewed, the company responded to the BBC and stated: “We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions. We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done.”
Although many of the world’s leading tech firms use the same suppliers, the dominant global success of Apple products has made the company the prime target for criticism. In light of the latest revelations, the small detail on the back of their products which states “Assembled in China” casts a dark shadow on some of the most widely used tech products in the world.