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Apple Supplier in China Accused of Abuses

Sept. 5, 2014
Problems at the Catcher Technology plant in the city of Suqian included locked safety exits, dumping of industrial waste into rivers, forced overtime, and lack of ventilation.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A Chinese factory that supplies Apple (IW 500/4) with parts has been operating with violations of basic standards for health, safety and environmental protection, an investigative report said Thursday.

China Labor Watch and Green America itemized their findings in a 25-page report based on an investigation in August of a Catcher Technology plant in the city of Suqian.

Asked about the report, Apple said that it audits the plant regularly and works with its operators to raise standards and implement best practices.

"Apple is committed to ensuring safe and fair working conditions for everyone in our supply chain," the California-based maker of iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macintosh computers said.

"Our suppliers must live up to the toughest standards in the industry if they want to keep doing business with Apple. We know our work is never done, and we are devoted to constant improvement."

Labor Watch said that an investigation of the Catcher factory early last year turned up similar problems and that the findings were reported privately to Apple, with no apparent improvement in conditions achieved since then.

"The health and safety violations found in this factory two years in a row are startling," said Green America campaigns director Elizabeth O'Connell.

"The lack of safety training in this facility and improper handling of hazardous materials contributes to the risk of life-threatening emergencies."

Waste Dumped in Rivers

Catcher is operated by a Taiwan-based parent company of the same name and employs approximately 20,000 workers, according to the report.

The factory was said to make components for an array of companies including Sony, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell.

Problems found at the facility included locked safety exits, dumping of industrial waste into rivers, forced overtime, and lack of ventilation, according to the report.

The investigation also found aluminum-magnesium alloy shreddings on the floor and dust particles in the air, posing a health and fire safety risk.

An annual audit of Catcher operations conducted in May turned up "concrete areas of improvement" and a plan was worked out to correct problems, according to Apple.

A follow-up to check on progress was slated to take place next month, but a team has been dispatched immediately to investigate hazards or abuses listed in the report, Apple said.

Catcher aluminum systems are audited monthly by Apple and consistently exceed international safety standards, according to the California company.

A quarterly fire safety inspection at Catcher last week led to repairs of broken fire extinguishers and the unblocking of fire exits, Apple said.

The hours put in by more than a million workers in the supply chain are tracked weekly by Apple, which said that its information indicated Catcher averaged 95% compliance with a 60-hour cap placed on time put in each week.

Catcher was described as one of 160 suppliers enrolled in an Apple training program focused on environment, health, and safety management.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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