Apple Investigators Clear Chinese Factory After Worker Dies

Foxconn factory Shenzhen China 2005 - by Steve Jurvetson from Wikimedia

Apple dispatched medical experts to investigate after the death of a worker at a contractor factory in China

Apple dispatched medical experts to investigate the death of a worker in October at the Shanghai factory of contractor Pegatron Corp.

The experts reportedly concluded that the death of the 15-year-old boy – from severe pneumonia – was not related to working conditions at the factory.

Worker Concerns

However, the death does raise concerns given the young age of the worker, who according to Reuters, lied in order to gain employment. He reportedly used the identifications papers of his 21-year old cousin to fool Pegatron.

apple, snooping surveillance privacy © Dmitry Vinogradov Shutterstock“Last month we sent independent medical experts from the US and China to conduct an investigation of the (Pegatron) factory. While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realise that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones,” Apple was quoted as saying in a statement on Thursday.

“Apple has a long-standing commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace for every worker in our supply chain, and we have a team working with Pegatron at their facility to ensure that conditions meet our high standards.”

Pegatron is a Taiwanese firm that manufacturers the Apple iPhone and iPad Mini. Its own investigation into the death also concluded it was not related to work. The youngster had only recently joined Pegatron, and according to company spokesman Charles Lin, the assembly line environment should not cause a condition such as pneumonia.

CLW Allegations

Meanwhile the New York-based labour rights group China Labour Watch (CLW), said that it was concerned over other incidents at this factory. It said that it had obtained information that “confirms the recent sudden deaths of several (three) workers” in a very short period of time (in March and April this year).

CLW said that Shi Zhaokun, the 15-year old worker who died, had undertaken a pre-employment physical examination on 4 September, which indicated that he was in good health. It also posted his workcard, which showed that Zhaokun regularly worked 12 to 13 hour days.

And CLW remains unhappy at the conditions at the factory. “While Shi worked at Pegatron making Apple products, the factory demanded workers to work for 12 hours each day. In addition, workers could only switch between night and day shifts once every three month. They were even required to work during the Chinese National Day holiday period,” said CLW.

“CLW has demanded that Apple and the factory perform autopsies on each deceased worker and verify the actual reason for the workers’ deaths, including potential hazards in the production process that continue to pose a risk to other workers in the factory,” said CLW.

Pegatron has rebutted CLW’s allegations and denied any responsibility for the deaths. But CLW says that Pegatron has refused to conduct in-depth investigations into the matter. And Shi’s family has reportedly asked CLW to seek donations to pay for an independent autopsy, in order to “find out the truth behind the deaths of these workers.”

“Pegatron has strict measures in place to verify workers’ ages before and after they are hired, and we work with health and safety experts to provide a safe working environment for each and every worker,” Pegatron was quoted as saying. The company spokesman said three other employee deaths this year were caused by various medical conditions unrelated to work at the factory.

Back in July CLW accused Pegatron of violating workers’ rights at three of its factories in China. It claimed that Pegatron was guilty of a range of violations, from hiring discrimination and poor working conditions to abuse by management and under-age labour. Apple and Pegatron both investigated the allegations.

The recent deaths of these workers will do little to dispel the ongoing allegations about worker exploitation and abuse of those building Apple products. Back in 2010, Steve Jobs himself was forced to defend his company against accusations that conditions at Foxconn had pushed some of its workers to suicide.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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