Apple has temporarily cut ties with a major manufacturing partner after discovering it was actively covering up an untold number of student labour violations in multiple China-based facilities.
Shanghai-based outlet The Paper was the first to report that the Taiwanese company Pegatron — a key supplier for gadgets like iPhones, Macbooks and iPads — was misclassifying student interns working out of the company’s Shanghai and Kunshan locations in order to have them work nights, perform overtime, or do duties that were “unrelated to their major.” All of these are breaches of Apple’s strict Code of Conduct for its supplier partners. In a statement to The Paper, Apple also noted that the supervisor responsible for Pegatron’s arm of their student work program forged documents to cover up the company’s violations of Apple’s guidelines.
Apple first discovered these offences several weeks ago while reviewing its own student work programs in the region. While the Cupertino giant wouldn’t comment on the number of students caught working under these conditions, it added that it couldn’t find evidence of forced or underage labour in either of these facilities.
Apple did not immediately return our request for comment, but told Bloomberg that it placed its partner on probation “until corrective action is completed.” It also told The Paper that the students involved were given “direct monetary subsidies” to make up for their extra time worked. Pegatron, meanwhile, has fired the manager involved in the coverup, and removed said students from its production lines.
This is hardly the first time that Pegatron has landed in Apple’s line of fire over some less-than-savoury labour practices. Back in 2013, China Labour Watch reported that the manufacturer was underpaying at least 100 interns working in its Shanghai facilities while also subjecting them to gruelling shifts that regularly stretched 12 hours at a time. The watchdog group found similar mistreatment continuing well into 2015.
Apple’s problems with worker abuse within its ever-sprawling chain of suppliers don’t begin and end with Pegatron. In 2010, stories of more than a dozen suicides at Foxconn, the company’s central hardware partner, provoked Apple to finally shine a light on the warehouses where its most popular gadgets were made. In 2012, it released a full list of its supply-side partners for the first time, and has pushed an annual supplier responsibility report detailing the progress — or lack thereof — in some of these facilities since 2007.
We’ve reached out to Apple and Pegatron for comment, and will update if we hear back.