Since 2009, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) has been concerning with the labour condition of Apple’s supply chain in China. A series of investigations and campaigns were held in the years to urge Apple and its manufacturers to stop abusing workers in China. In 2013, SACOM published its first investigative report of Biel Crystal, Apple’s largest display screen manufacturer, disclosing the inhumane working conditions in factory. In 2015, SACOM organized a second round of investigation on the same factory targeting to re-examine the working conditions. Researchers applied as general workers of Biel’s Huizhou factory and conducted undercover investigation inside the plant to collect evident and materials.
According to the research result, it was found that labour right violations are still widespread in Biel Huizhou:
1. Endless Bleeding on the Production Lines
1.1 Occupation Risk-related Terms Crossed Out in Contract
Biel has crossed out the terms stating the potential occupation risks workers would face and the protection measures employer should take. This is unfair to workers as they have no way of understanding potential dangers in the workplace.
1.2 Frequent Workplace Injury
Workplace injuries are still frequent in Biel Huizhou. Almost 30 workers get injured per month in average. Biel is also found to be asking some workers to sign an agreement to give up the right to undertake official injury assessment.
2. High Pressure Management
2.1 Intensive Surveillance and Discipline
There are around 1500 security staff members in Biel Huizhou monitoring every single part of workers’ factory life. Biel’s security staff are well-known to be rude and ill-mannered which made workers living under high pressure.
2.2 Fines and Wage Deduction without Legal Ground
Although fining workers is legally groundless in China, fine and wage deduction are still widely used in the factory to punish workers who violated factory’s regulations. Fines are issued frequently even on minor issues such as not able to finish food or not dining in assigned canteen.
2.3 Numerous Workplace Suicides
At least 3 in-plant suicide were found during 2014-2015. Deceased’s relatives protested that Biel has been refusing to investigate and disclose the reasons and details of the death. Workers were also prohibited from discussing the suicides.
3. Playing a Game on Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct
3.1 Forced Signing of Overtime Work Application
Workers are coerced into signing an agreement to claim they are voluntarily applying overtime work and will not pursue Biel for any liabilities. The agreement was given to workers together with the employment contract. Workers who refuse to make the claim will not be hired. The agreement is misleading to workers regarding their legal labour rights.
3.2 Excessive Working Hours
The overtime hours of workers are found to be up to 140 hours per month while the legal maximum overtime hour is 36 per month. The Just-in-time manufacturing system adapted by Apple and Biel is the root of the problem. Another reason is the low basic wage of workers that forces them to work overtime just to earn a living.
4. Underpaying Social Securities and Not Paying Housing Provident Fund
Biel is found to be not paying workers’ housing provident fund. Also, Biel is paying workers’ pension and unemployment insurance in a base far lower than the actual gross wage of workers.
5. Absent of a Democratic Workers’ Union
Vast majority of workers in Biel do not know the existence of the trade union. The union room is found to be always empty and workers have no way to contact the union representatives at all. The Union is not performing the function of voicing for workers.
Based on the violations and abuses mentioned above, we condemn the misbehavior of Biel and Apple. These two corporate entities must carry out corrective measures immediately:
SACOM Demands to Biel Crystal
1. To raise the basic wage of workers in order to guarantee workers’ income for a decent life without excessive overtime working hours;
2. To undertake all social securities and housing provident fund cover for all workers according to relative legal requirements;
3. To abandon the legally-groundless fining system immediately;
4. To abandon the military-style management and set up an effective counseling system to avoid worker from committing suicide due to the high working pressure;
5. To complete the occupation risks-related terms in employment contacts and provide sufficient training and PPEs to avoid occupation injuries;
6. To reform the union and enable workers to democratically elect their representatives in accordance with the Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China;
SACOM’s Demands to Apple
1. To ensure Biel Crystal acts upon the above demands and compliance to labour-related laws;
2. To guarantee Biel Crystal’s compliance to Chinese Labour Law, Social Insurance Law, Regulations on Management of Housing Provident Fund and other related laws;
3. To guarantee Biel Crystal’s compliance to Apple’s Suppliers’ Code of Conduct;
4. To actively and effectively monitor and disclose the production behaviors in its whole supply chain;
5. To enhance the transparency of its supply chain;
6. To organize a round-table meeting involving representatives from SACOM, Apple and Biel Crystal for discussing a timetable to rectify the labour rights violations