25 September 2015, Hong Kong
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), together with Worker Empowerment (WE), Globalization Monitor (GM), Left 21, Labour Education & Service Network (LESN), Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) staged a protest outside Apple Store in Canton Road this morning (25 September) to urge Apple to apply immediate measures to rectify exploitations in its supply chain from root causes and to release its latest investigative report on Lens Technology. The investigation took place from January to June 2015, discovered various issues of labour condition in the factory.
Lens Technology is one of the biggest glass suppliers to Apple Inc. It also supplies to other brands like Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei, and Xiaomi. Its president Zhou Qunfei is a Hong Kong permanent resident. Since it is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Zhou has become the richest woman in China. At the same time, Forbes ranks Zhou as the richest woman in tech industry. Zhou was born into a poor peasant family in Hunan province, migrated to Shenzhen in early 1990s for work. Despite her “factory girl” background, SACOM found the following exploitations in Lens:
During peak season, workers have to work overtime three hours per day. Only one rest day for every 14 days, sometimes it could be no rest day for the whole month. Shenzhen Lens One even requires workers make application before enjoying their entitled rest day and their wages would be deducted for that. This is violating both Chinese Labour Law and the Code of Conducts of Apple Inc.;
On the other hand, the contract signed by Lens Technology and new workers marks the local minimum wage as wage base. For example, the minimum wage of Liuyang, Hunan province is RMB1,250, which is RMB600 less than workers got from Lens Technology. This remains suspicious if the company is preparing to escape from possible work injury, occupational diseases or factory relocation in the future;
Even though workers in probation are entitled to quit by giving three days prior notice, in reality the factory concerns most about meeting production target. It takes months to finish the whole resignation procedure, leading some workers leaving “voluntarily”;
Lens factories in Hunan province has a regulation to keep workers’ wages for 20 days. Lens is using this to ensure workforce stability but also bringing workers hardship to maintain their living before the payment date.
All three factories SACOM investigated did not pay social security contribution based on workers’ individual wage, violating the Chinese Social Security Law;
Dust, noise, polluted water, chemical substances are common problems in the shopfloor. Factory management concerns most about production target, ignoring if workers are well-protected from occupational diseases and work injury. There are workers with festered hands due to long time exposure to chemical substances. Moreover, benzene is used in the printing department putting workers at risk to cancer and other diseases; The trade union of Lens Technology is only for display, it does not fulfil its responsibility to bridge employer and workers together.
SACOM has been monitoring the labour condition in Apple suppliers in China since 2010. However, over the years, the group found changes are still limited. Again they urge Apple Inc. to fulfil its corporate social responsibility to rectify the issue from the root causes, to give workers a workplace with respect and dignity .
Firstly, SACOM urge Apple to review and restructure its zero inventory policy to give appropriate production time to suppliers and control work hours as required by Chinese Labour Law; at the same time increase higher and reasonable pay to suppliers, to tackle problems from root causes and to allow more space to suppliers to improve working conditions.
And for Lens, SACOM urges the company to provide contract with full and genuine details to respect the mutual agreement made with workers; also, to respect local law and handle resignation according to legal requirement, and to provide at least one rest day every week for workers and limit the maximum overtime work to 36 hours a month.
For occupational health and safety, SACOM urges Lens to provide adequate training, protection and health examination to workers on occupational health and safety, immediate improvement in shopfloor ventilation; paying for workers’ health check fees, and to enable workers to select their representative in accordance with the Trade Union Law.